I’ve just seen Snow White broken down on the Handforth Bypass in Macclesfield, exchanging insurance information – it must be World Book Day.
Many schools across the country will be unrecognisable as Mr Smith becomes fantastic Mr Fox and 12 Harry Potters bound through the school gate at 8am. Dressing up as one of your favourite literary characters on World Book Day has become an annual tradition across the country, not only in schools, but in work places and colleges too.
Today the 17th UK World Book Day will be marked across Great Britain. Originally launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998, children were given a £1 Special World Book Day book token to be redeemed against any book in any UK bookshop.
This year, there are eight brand new books that children can exchange their book token for, absolutely free! National Book Tokens Ltd will hand out over 14 million vouchers to children this year – that’s 14 million free books to kids across the UK and Ireland!
The main aim of World Book Day is to encourage reading for pleasure; a sentiment echoed by Michael Gove who once said children “should read 50 books a year”, around one book or novel per week.
The best thing about world book day? There is no snobbery – whether you’re a fan of the Twilight Saga or really into Pride and Prejudice, it doesn’t matter – as long as you are taking pleasure from reading.
I was pleased, but not surprised, to see that my own favourite childhood author, the magnificent Roald Dahl, is still among the top bestselling authors for children, despite his death in 1990.
My favourite character was always the sinister Willy Wonka, and I always hoped one day I would make chocolate for a living (the dream lasted far longer than was sensible).
It is impossible to over-emphasise the importance of reading. In Michael Gove’s new National Curriculum, whole book reading is an integral part of English through all of the Key Stages. Children will be expected to be able to retell stories they have heard, and read, summarise a book they have enjoyed and recommend novels to their peers.
From Year Seven, they will read authors from the literary canon such as Charlotte Brontë and Shakespeare; modern classics like “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “Lord of the Flies” and “Animal Farm”, and seminal world literature such as Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death”.
So how can we encourage our pupils to read more?
1) Be a reading ambassador – If they don’t see you reading, they won’t read. Whatever subject you’re teaching, tell them about the books you have read or are reading, and get them excited.
2) It doesn’t have to be a paper book – An e-book is often thought of as a dirty word among reading ‘purists’, but the important thing is that stories and books are accessible and available – if they have a tablet or e-reader they can easily download an app – for free – and start reading straight away. Don’t forget that there are millions of free e-books out there too!
3) Set up a book club – A lunchtime or after school reading club will allow pupils to interact with each other, and their books, sharing experiences and recommending stories to their peers.
4) Summer Reading Challenge – One from the archives – if you don’t want to join in with the national challenge, you can always create your own, offering certificates and book tokens to those writing the most compelling reviews.
5) Consider your audience – Think carefully about the books you suggest – again it’s about accessibility. A pupil with parents who read at home and who engage in lots of experiential activities outside the classroom, will have different needs to a pupil who only reads whilst at school. Listen to their stories and select books that meet their needs, and match or challenge their reading level.
Who is your favourite author and why? Let us know by Tweeting @_TheSchoolBus #WorldBookDay