Start a new book-day chapter

24th March 2000 at 00:00
SO WORLD Book Day has passed and schools have been invaded by children dressed as book characters. We have designed mini-books, bookmarks and book covers. We have talked about the joys of reading and the evils of watching too much television.

As in the previous two years I collected the book tokens of those children who were unable, for whatever reason, to make it into Bradford to buy a book.

First I went to Waterstones, who told me they had 200 copies of the Children's Book of Books, but I could only have 21. Fair enough.

So I went to the other branch of Waterstones across the road. They told me I couldn't have any. "But if I wanted to come back at the end of the promotion I could see what was left" they graciously added.

Yet again I wasn't put off (I am a primary teacher, for god's sake!). Next I went to WH Smith. Again I was told that I couldn't have any, as the "promotion" was designed for each child to visit the shop. I explained that this they couldn't do and I had come on their behalf. When the words "you can speak to the under-manager - if you want" were uttered, I knew it was time to leave.

In an e-mail from WH Smith I was informed that WBD Ltd (the organisers of World Book Day) state that "the mechanics of th promotion are designed to help as many children as possible visit a bookshop".

The only way that the token would help many of my children to visit a shop is if they could use it as part of their bus fare.

We try so hard to encourage reading on this of all days, trying to ensure that each child has something to remember it by and that they all feel they are taking part. In return we are told that children who are not willing to come to Waterstones or Smiths are not the sort of customers they want.

It had crossed our mind to take as many children as possible down to the bookshops during the lunch hour and have them line up in an orderly queue waiting patiently for their free book. After all, how much disruption can more than 100 children make?

In defence of Reids, my local bookshop in Keighley, they did give us 140 copies of the book. Perhaps we should abandon World Book Day and organise local book days in conjunction with independent bookshops. The money could be set aside from the school budget and then we could avoid the self-congratulatory publishers and major chains, who have made so much already from the literacy hour.

Antony Silson

15 Carleton Street


Keighley, West Yorkshire

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