Peterborough mother of two Donna Steele:
Thursday - as any parent with young children will know - was World Book Day, an annual event which until a couple of years ago meant nothing to me.
It wasn’t until my eldest got involved at playgroup two years ago that I found out what all the fuss was about - despite the fact it was launched in the 1990s. And I love it.
It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in more than 100 countries all over the world.
Children of all ages - including my three-year-old and five- year old - will come together to appreciate reading. Very loudly and very happily is the general idea.
It is all about encouraging children to explore the pleasures of books and reading.
As a bonus, all the schools and nurseries that have specially registered to participate receive age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs full of ideas and activities. Not to mention a free book token for each child to exchange for one of 10 specially chosen books or money off one of their own choice.
Dressing up as a favourite book character is a big part of the celebration and my oldest’s pre-school years saw her join various Harry Potters, Gruffalos and Alices to name but a few.
The dressing up element has come in for some criticism in recent years, with calls in some parts for schools to ban costumes to help poorer parents who might struggle to buy one. That is a great shame. For me anything which paints World Book Day in a negative light is doing young children no favours at all.
Admittedly the more extravagant you go the higher the price, but surely it isn’t too much trouble for the busiest of parents to adapt everyday wear and throw in a little face paint. And let’s face it, little ones love dressing up no matter what you put them in. If it engages young children with books that has got to be a good thing.
We are after all constantly reminded of the low levels of achievement when it comes to reading.
Across the UK, up to two in five children in disadvantaged communities have difficulties with literacy. Introducing all children and young people to the habit of reading in everyday life can improve communication skills and brighten future prospects.
As it happens, my five-year-old’s reception class won’t be dressing up this year (her sister will be a ladybird however from her favourite book which she can recite word for word having had it read to her so often). Instead they will be joining the effort nationally to read 100 million minutes in a week.
It is a brilliant idea and there are prizes awarded to those schools who achieve the highest average number of reading minutes per child and certificates for individuals who reach key reading targets throughout the week.
That has to be great motivation and will help unlock new worlds and possibilities.