It’s that time of year again. The time of year when the art of reading, the love of all things literary, the fun of all fictional worlds are celebrated and enjoyed. It was World Book Day this week and the main aim of this special day is to encourage children of all ages to realise the pleasure that can be found in books and to teach them to enjoy the art of reading. It allows children to become closer to books and authors they are already familiar with and discover new authors they will also grow to love. World Book Day is something that is celebrated all over the world and in this country it is marked by the presentation of a book voucher to nearly every child under eighteen in the country. These can be redeemed against a little book specifically produced for the day itself by well known children’s authors.
Anything that encourages a child to read more is a good thing. Reading transports them to magical worlds, turns the quietest children into superheroes and lets them be anything they want to be. Every page they turn opens their minds to new ideas and expands their horizons. There are no limits and no boundaries within the pages of a book. Nothing is impossible once the story begins. No one can touch you there, between the first and last page. It’s a safe haven.
However, the celebration of this World Book Day has become less about the book and more about the art of costume making and dressing up. Many schools mark the day by allowing the children to dress up as a character from their favourite book. The link that some of these costumed kids have to any literary work is tenuous at best. It’s in danger of becoming more about the dressing up and less about the reading. Panic-stricken parents are under pressure to produce fabulous costumes at a moment’s notice and end up throwing money into this that could well be spent at the bookshop promoting the actual reading instead. If the Day itself is supposed to be all about reading and books then it should be about words and not images. In all fairness the children are actually dressing up as their favourite movie character rather than their favourite literary character because there’s a good chance that their beloved hero is too obscure to explain to their peers without them being branded as a geek or a nerd.
My poor children have to suffer the ignominy of a mother who is creatively challenged. I am totally unable and unwilling to design elaborate costumes at a moment’s notice and if the party shop is closed I’m in deep trouble. With that in mind I came up with a plan of rebellion for their last Primary school celebration of World Book Day. Instead of any elaborate attire involving a trip to the nearest costume shop, how about putting a saucepan on the head of one of the children? He /she instantly became the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, or some kind of robot character or even an alien about to conquer the world. I could only hope that said saucepan remained firmly on the appointed head, however, and was not used for any boisterous behaviour.
The plan for child number two was to the take a leaf out of the book “The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells. The child in question would become invisible from school for the whole day and instead spend the few hours curled up on the couch reading actual books and really celebrating World Book Day. Invisible, but proactive at the same time. Genius and totally embracing the meaning of the Day.
Finally for child number three, the eldest son, he wanted to repeat his costume of the previous year. He arrived downstairs on the morning of the day in question looking remarkably like himself. Looking him up and down and back to front I was afraid to say anything in case I was missing something completely obvious. Let’s face it; it wouldn’t be the first time. Eventually I plucked up the courage and mentioned that he looked very similar to a child who lives here and mumbled something about it being World Dressing Up and Nodding at a Book Day. He grinned rather calmly at me and announced that he was dressed up as his favourite character from a book yet to be published. The character? Him. The book in question? His, as yet unpublished, autobiography. I couldn’t argue with that. An utterly ingenious act of passive resistance. I like his style. Not only had he dealt with the dressing up issue he had also paid tribute to fantastic works of modern literature. I couldn’t have done it better myself.