To many who grew up in the UK, World Book Day means nostalgia; memories of dressing up as characters and trying to guess who your teacher is meant to be portraying.
Growing up as an enthusiastic reader, World Book Day was one of my favourite days of the school year. I loved any excuse to talk about my favourite book, and so a day dedicated to all things fictional was my idea of heaven.
For many, the gap between school and parenthood stops you celebrating World Book Day, but I bypass this by being a Children’s Bookseller. Not only do I still get to dress up, but I have found a new favourite part of the day: watching excited kids run into our shop, voucher in hand, buzzing with the anticipation of picking their very own book.
It is my experience as a bookseller that I thought about whilst listening to Cassie Chadderton, CEO of World Book Day, talk at this years’ Children’s Conference. Cassie spoke about the impact that World Book Day has had on so many children across the UK: how pupils rank it alongside Halloween and Christmas as a favourite day of the year; how for 1 in 7 pupils the voucher and £1 book have lead to them owning their first ever book; and how, in just 5 weeks in 2020, over a million books were given out, alongside over 30 million tokens. Hearing her talk about how this one charity has such an impact on children from all backgrounds, made me reflect on the children we see each March.
Of course we have the usual little bookworms, on their regular trip to collect their next read; we also see new faces, children we have never interacted with before, who are clearly encountering the magic of a bookshop for the first time; and then there are the children we never get to see. The children whose families cannot afford to bring them to the shop, because although the book is free, the time and travel isn’t. The children whose schools don’t hand out the vouchers in time, or don’t hand them out at all. The children whose teachers’ try to skirt the rules and bulk buy all the books for them, denying them the chance to experience the wonder of a bookshop and getting to choose their very own book.
It is those “missing children” that I think about now. What does World Book Day mean to them? Is it just a day that “the other kids” get to celebrate, or does it skip them by altogether?
The dream is, with each year, there will be less “missing children”. Cassie explained in her talk that World Book Day is determined to create clearer links with public and school libraries, as well as creating an online book club, which should be more accessible as children can access it themselves.
By the end of the talk I felt hope. Hope that, as the charity continues to grow, they manage to catch these “missing children”, as no child should be denied the magic of visiting a bookshop or the joy of choosing their very own book. Hope that, in years to come when these children are asked “what does World Book Day mean to you?” they will have memories as happy as mine to look back on.