Schools cancel costumes amid growing backlash against World Book Day

There are growing complaints that World Book Day is pressurising parents and allowing companies to 'cash in'

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As schools brace themselves for an army of Hermiones, Harrys and assorted superheroes to march – or fly – into classrooms this morning, not everyone is feeling the World Book Day love.

Since being conceived in the 1990s, the day has become a major event in school calendars, filling Facebook news feeds and local papers with pictures of grinning, or grimacing, children styled as their favourite characters.

But there is a growing backlash against the event: some complain it heaps unnecessary pressure on parents forced to come up with creative costumes, while others say it allows companies to "cash in" on the celebration:

Shoot me now but annoyed with world book day. Every day should be WBD imo and don’t get me started on supermarkets selling spider man and princesses outfits for it. Fair enough if you’ve read the comic books but unlikely at age 4. Whole wbd dressing up section no books in sight.

— Vanessa BURNS (@nessalovesshoes) February 21, 2018

World book day is wonderful, but what a shame that commercial interests see it as an opportunity to sell costumes and some schools pander to this. More unnecessary pressure on some struggling families.

— Neil Roskilly (@ISAschoolsCEO) February 22, 2018

Meltdowns are inevitable & the pressure: 5 things I hate about World Book Day! #mums #dads #parentingproblems

— Crummy Mummy (@mrsnataliebrown) March 8, 2017

What a great way to cash in on world book day. Forget supporting authors and illustrators, have a @Disney book week. Way to go @sainsburys

— Ed Finch (@MrEFinch) February 25, 2017

And some schools are now choosing to tone down their celebrations, including by asking children not to wear fancy dress, and re-focusing the day on reading.

For example, Leamington Primary School, in Liverpool, wrote in a letter to parents this term: "School children will be dressed in school uniform as we are mindful of the pressure put on parents/carers to get costumes ready. We are planning to arrange a more extended reading week for the Summer term."

It is far from the only school to take this approach:

So grateful to my kids' headteacher who informed us in a newsletter last week that the school will mark World Book Day by celebrating books in school, with lots of reading, and with all kids in school uniform!

— Sumit Rahman (@SumitRahman) February 25, 2018

Glad to see my daughter’s school has replaced ‘dressing up’ for world book day with: ‘reading books’ and ‘swap books’ you have read for others they haven’t... it’s almost as if they think reading is important

— Martin Robinson (@Trivium21c) February 26, 2018

Netmums associate editor Jo Wheatley says: “World Book Day has become a huge thing for schools, and, yes, it can put pressure on parents."

But, she adds, it doesn’t need to be stressful. "The focus should be on encouraging your child to love books and reading – the day is about bringing book characters to life, not about who has got the best outfit.

"Luckily, there are lots of ways to create an outfit that don’t take much effort, ie, by making masks from paper and cardboard, rummaging in your wardrobe, swapping items with friends or customising items your child already owns such as school uniform (Harry Potter – just add a wand) or a ballet tutu (Angelina Ballerina)."

"But if your child is reluctant to dress up, there shouldn’t be pressure on her by school to do so – just bringing in her favourite book is enough.”

But for any parents still left frantically scrabbling around for a last-minute costume, there is hope on the horizon: heavy snow is forcing some schools to cancel costumes:

As further bad weather continues to approach overnight, we have unfortunately CANCELLED World Book Day tomorrow as it will be too cold for costumes. It will instead take place next week. Please can all children have their school uniform on TOMORROW.

— Croftway Primary (@CroftwayPrimary) February 28, 2018


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