World Book Day is fast approaching. This is normally the time of year that teachers (and parents) have a moan about children dressing up and how it will take away from what World Book Day is trying to achieve.
I’m going to try to fight the corner of dressing up and show how it can be a great thing that really enhances the experience for young people.
First, let’s think what World Book Day is actually trying to achieve.
World Book Day is a charity with a mission to give every child or young person a book of their own. This seems to me like a pretty decent thing to want to achieve and I think every professional would fully support that mission. So, if allowing a child to dress up as a character from a favourite (or potentially only) book they have at home makes their day a little more special, why fight that?
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World Book Day is also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and, most importantly, of reading. If dressing up helps reluctant or even avid readers celebrate books, then why would we moan about that? Surely we should be helping them to make their costumes and finding ways to link this across the curriculum? By taking time as teachers to create costumes, masks and sashes, we can also cut through any potential poverty-related issues and ensure that children don’t feel left out.
A third of children read more with their parents as a result of taking part in World Book Day, with half of those saying they subsequently read more independently (see the National Literacy Trust’s Annual Literacy Survey, 2019). A quarter of pupils said that the book they bought with their 2016 World Book Day token was their first book of their own, while lower-income families are the group most likely to discover books through World Book Day.
As an educator, these are statistics I cannot ignore. I can’t help but think that if dressing up can be the one thing that maybe gets children interested in books, then it’s definitely worth doing.
I’m now at the stage as a parent where my two boys have World Book Day events coming up at their nursery and, yeah, you’ve guessed it – they involve dressing up. My two boys are mega-interested in superheroes and I’m going to let them dress up as their favourite one. I've seen that opening up a comic can be great way into the world of reading.
So, this World Book Day, if you have any reservations about dressing up, I’d ask you to think again. Let’s see it as a gateway to books for many – and a bit of fun for our already competent and avid readers.
Adam Black is a teacher in Scotland. In 2019, he received the British Empire Medal for raising awareness of stammering. He tweets @adam_black23