Rebecca Petronzi, English Lead for Primary Initial Teacher Education at the University of Derby, talks about World Book Day and explores the value behind the costumes and commercialisation.
On Thursday 5 of March, the school run will look slightly different. Instead of children in their school uniforms and winter coats, there will be armies of Harry Potters, hordes of Gruffalos and a fair few Fantastic Mr. Foxes. From children dressed as Alice in Wonderland stuck in her house, to Grinches painted head to toe in green and covered in cotton wool, World Book Day is a fantastic celebration of all things literature.
But why all the pantomime and production?
Since the first ever World Book Day in 1995, the charity has been ‘on a mission’ to bring books into the life of every child. According to their website, World Book Day has a positive impact on both the ownership and enjoyment of books. Their research found that nearly 3 in 5 children said that they read more books as a result of World Book Day. Furthermore, 25.2% of the children interviewed said that the first book they had ever owned was purchased with their World Book Day voucher.
So, while World Book Day may look like fancy dress fun, it really does have a serious impact on children’s engagement with literature. According to TES, in 2017 more than 750,000 UK school children did not own a single book. The statistics are striking for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Literacy Trust found that in 2018, 1 in 8 children from lower socio-economic backgrounds said they did not own a book of their own. It is commonly known that reading equates to better educational outcomes and opportunities, but why exactly?
Well, engaging with a variety of literature and non-fiction texts expands children’s vocabularies and knowledge of grammar, whilst also supporting text comprehension and understanding.
Owning a book can help improve children’s mental wellbeing
However, it is more than just their literacy skills. The Literacy Trust also identified that children who have a book of their own at home have higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who don’t have any books. The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance claim that reading supports strong emotional bonds between parent and child, nourishes their imagination and develops an understanding of the wider world – which is something that the Early Years Development Matters document agrees with. When the Department for Education published their 2012 Research Evidence for Reading for Pleasure, the findings suggested that children reading for enjoyment can have a greater impact and influence on their future success than their socio-economic background. Furthermore, research by Natalia Kucirkova also states that by experiencing a story from the protagonist’s point of view, children develop empathy and a sense of identity.
So, this World Book Day, look beyond the costumes and the crafts. Look beyond the commercialisation and gimmicks. Remember, books are windows to the world and mirrors to the soul. Stories can transport us in place and time, teach us new perspectives and information, and help us develop socially and spiritually. This World Book Day, regardless of your age, immerse yourself in a good book. Just like in the J.R.R Tolkien classics, who knows what adventure awaits you.