This post has been written by Ed Moss
This Thursday (5th March 2020) people in over 100 countries will be celebrating World Book Day. For some of you, that will no doubt mean putting the finishing touches to the cardboard, paint and fabric masterpiece you’ve been preparing for weeks and will be wearing with pride on the big day (‘I’ve come as the Hydra because I’ve always loved Greek mythology. Look, if you take off this head, another two spring up from inside the loo rolls I’ve used to make the neck…’).* For others, that might mean rooting out that slightly-too-small red and white striped jumper late on Wednesday night and sending your son in as Where’s Wally for the third year in a row. Some children in your school or family will be having passionate internal debates about which book to take in on the day because they read 57 books per week and it feels impossible to select just one to share with the class. Some may well be dreading the day because reading is so difficult for them, or they don’t really have any books of their own to bring in as their favourite. I think World Book Day is an amazing opportunity to spark or foster a love for reading, but perhaps sometimes it can also feel like just another thing to plan for which loses sight of its original purpose.
My childhood experience of book days was overwhelmingly positive and the memories of them are some of the fondest I have from school. I can still so clearly remember dressing up as Martin the Warrior from Brian Jacques’s Redwall series of books (my absolute favourite stories as a child) and thinking it was incredible to pretend to be the character for a day. Imagine my astonishment when our headteacher introduced Jacques himself to us in assembly and he recited the first few pages of his first novel to us from memory! I even got to meet him! Another year I was given free rein and what felt like a huge amount of time to write a fully illustrated story about whatever I wanted. Super-Zooming Stick Insect was my creation (shockingly, Year 3 me still hasn’t landed a publishing deal for that one) and that freedom to write was so inspiring for me. It made me want to read more to see how people wrote and what they wrote about, and it made me want to create worlds where people might get as lost and happy as I had been in stories I had read.
I think this stands as testament to how much good can be done through World Book Day activities, but then again, I’ve always enjoyed reading. For me, it just felt like a special day to celebrate something I already loved. I know other people who find costume making/sourcing burdensome (financially or in the time cost) and struggle to see how it has much of an impact on children’s desire to read (especially those children who dislike reading or haven’t had the resources to do much of it). World Book Day’s provision of free and price-reduced books certainly has a great impact in this area, but I think it is also important to choose activities for the day which go beyond fancy dress and really aim to draw children into the joy and knowledge that can come from reading. World Book Day activities should show children the value of reading and get them thinking ‘Wow, if I read more, I’d gain that!’
So what activities might generate that response? Here are some ideas:
Get children to talk about the characters they have come dressed as. I’m sure this is a very common World Book Day activity, and it’s effective because it opens the door for peer-to-peer inspiration. It also brings the fancy dress back to a focus on the joys of reading. Why did a child choose that character in particular? What stories have they read or heard involving them? What’s the best or worst or most exciting thing the character has ever done? Of course, some responses will be less enthusiastic than others, but passion is infectious and hearing one or two eager readers excitedly describe all the amazing things their characters have done can lead others to want to experience that excitement for themselves.
Get children to talk about their favourite book (or series of books). This activity works for exactly the same reasons as its costume-based equivalent. Children could also bring in a favourite book each, or choose one they’ve read in school, and swap books in pairs. Reading the first pages/chapters of each other’s books together and then giving hints as to what comes later in the story could whet reading appetites enough that a book swap might need to be arranged…
Use resources available on the World Book Day website. At https://www.worldbookday.com/resources/ you can find all sorts of activities and worksheets which have been designed to help you and your class celebrate the day. Nursery, Primary and Secondary are all catered for!
Use a Whole Class Guided Reading pack from Classroom Secrets. Each of our packs pack come with everything you need for a session, with oral questions, written comprehension questions and follow-up challenge activities. Some packs follow published books while others use short, engaging texts written by us! A huge variety of topics are covered, across all year groups, so if you’re looking for a complete, no-prep-needed resource to get your class reading and discussing this World Book Day, head to https://classroomsecrets.co.uk/category/reading/whole-class-guided-reading/ and find the right pack for you!
*If as a result of reading this blog you do wind up making a full Hydra costume complete with pop-out replacement heads, PLEASE send us a photo and blow our minds!