There’s been hundreds of pictures of children dressed up in their favourite fictional characters posted on all platforms of social media. Seeing their grinning (mostly) faces has made me reminisce about my own childhood and the World Book Days that I experienced at primary school.
I discovered, from this article on The Guardian, that the first annual celebration of World Book Day was held in 1997 – that means that I would have been in reception, and aged five at the time. The year that I started primary school is the year that schools began to celebrate books in a fun, and exciting way. The same article also stated that a quarter of the eight to eleven year olds given a token for the occasion used it to buy their first ever book – more on that later.
Although I don’t remember the first two years, I do distinctly remember one event that was held at my school. The teachers had converted the newly built school gym into a market with stalls lining the room. The floors were still clean looking, with minimal scuff marks from those awful plimsolls we were made to wear for PE. Childrens’ voices echoed as they excitedly entered after having been waiting. I can picture myself dressed as a mouse in a costume that my grandmother had made me, laughing with my friends, and slowly creeping towards the door. One year I uncharacteristically dressed as Snow White, this was odd for me as I grew up hating skirts and much preferred the freedom of trousers.
Once we finally got into the room the excitement was almost too much to bear. There were so many books to choose from and they were all brand new with beautiful, brightly coloured fronts. I picked a couple, and it was decision time – which do I choose to take home? Which do I spend my sacred £1 token on? I can’t remember the book – but I still remember the feeling. How is it that a book can give you butterflies? It must be because of The possibilities that await inside. You genuinely don’t know what you’re reading until you’ve broken the smooth spine and actually started reading it. Countless times I’ve read the blurb of a book and thought I’d be reading a love story and the complete opposite occurred within its pages. How many times have I thought I’d be reading something easy and for escapism when, actually, something dark or psychological has been spelled out on the page? Butterfly Fish is just one example of this.
I still get that same feeling of the unknown when I open a book for the first time; almost as if I’m getting off of the plane in a country that I’ve not set foot on before. My stomach still flutters in curiosity- who will I meet? Where will I go? What time period am I travelling to?
I love books. I always have. I probably always will.
But for every person like me, there’s probably one – maybe even two people that don’t. Maybe they enjoy spending their time doing other things: playing sports, learning to play a musical instrument, mastering chess, photographing nature – maybe it’s these things that give them the same feeling that I get from reading. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that.
I can pretty much guarantee that I went home and devoured the book that I chose on that World Book Day that was so long ago. I probably read it in one night. But once again, there were probably many of my classmates that chose a book from peer pressure and left it on a shelf in their bedroom. They probably threw it in the bin during their adolescence, sadly still untouched and unread. There were probably some who didn’t even trade in their voucher – there isn’t anything wrong with that. I personally don’t think that there is anything wrong with that. These children who have no interest in books are probably well aware of the logic behind chess, or know how to read sheet music – a completely different language – they may be able to dribble a ball around a football pitch extremely quickly or have produced some pretty amazing photographs. I know that at that age I wasn’t able to do any of those things (and some of them still can’t).
I do find it disheartening that there are children out there, who having reached the age of eleven, still haven’t had the chance to go out and buy their first book, but then again, I don’t think that one day is going to change their perspective on reading – that, unfortunately, is much more to do with literacy and the way that children are taught to read, as well as the awful pressures that teachers are under to teach the curriculum – and those are issues far beyond my knowledge and the remit of a simple blog post.