So, today is “World Book Day”, a day for children worldwide to dress up on their favourite literary character – and for parents to enter into the most competitive fancy-dress tournament since Halloween.
Now forgive me my cynical opening paragraph – and as this turns into a bit of a rant – but from what I have seen today the emphasis for some has been more of the latter and not necessarily on the former.
When World Book Day was conceived about 15 years ago, it was a fairly low-key event that was promoted with the purpose of getting children to engage with books, and therefore to get to know the characters in them. Obviously, the reading repertoire of primary age children is not going to be very wide but the point was that children were being encouraged to read books and find out for themselves what literature was all about. Characters from Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl, Harry Potter, The Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, the oodles and oodles of characters from fairy stories and the fables of Aesop are all possibilities from which to choose a suitable character to dress up as.
All very noble, and for the most part it has been successful. But…
This year however, I have been amazed at the audacious stretching of credibility when it comes to interpreting “literary” characters. Take this picture for example:
Since when is a Disney princess (complete with picture on the front so you can tell just which one…) or a Minion from Despicable Me counted as a BOOK character?
Or how about this one:
Or how about…:
Where’s Wally???? Oh come on….I know it’s a character in a book of sorts, but it really doesn’t come under the definition of a book that would engage a child with reading is it?
I found this picture of a class full of children dressing up and my heart sank:
I can see a Harry Potter, an Oompa Loompa and a couple of pirates (from Peter Pan maybe?) but the rest are from Disney or Marvel. Spiderman (duplicated), characters from Toy Story (also duplicated), Batman, Ironman and a host of generic fairies and princesses. The reason my heart sank is because these children are so young and for the majority of them already their literary world is confined to animated characters from films and TV.
I thought the whole point of World Book Day was to get into books, not cartoons. Surely!
Maybe I’m an old fart who is out of step with the world, but please, if we are going to have this day again in the future can we please keep its integrity and encourage children in the next 364 days to actually pick up a book and read it, or have it read to them by parents and teachers so they can make better choices next year?
If the trend for dressing up as your favourite character is the way forward then can we be honest and change the title to “Dress Up As Any Character You Can Buy A Disney Pixar Or Marvel Costume For Day” please? Or if we are going to keep World Book Day, can we do something about introducing children to books, or at least be a bit less flexible when it comes to the interpretation of what constitutes a “book character”? Is it too much to ask?!
To end on a positive note, there are plenty of other children who have dressed up as book characters today. This is my favourite:
Now we’re talking!!