25 years of World Book Day

When my boys were born, it wasn’t Christmas, Easter or Halloween that I couldn’t wait to celebrate with them.

The date I was looking forward to was World Book Day.

I know this annual celebration of reading, literacy and stories isn’t always a favourite with parents due to the pressure to make a costume, but it’s the one occasion where I take pleasure in creating a character for my kids.

In fact, I’m a bit jealous that World Book Day wasn’t around when I was in primary school.

The event might seem like a bit of a fun but it has an important and life changing purpose.

It was created by UNESCO on 23 April 1995 as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is now marked in more than 100 countries around the globe.

The first World Book Day in the UK and Ireland took place in 1997 and has been celebrated on the first Thursday of March ever since.

World Book Day founder Baroness Gail Rebuck says: We wanted to do something to reposition reading and our message is the same today as it was then – that reading is fun, relevant, accessible, exciting, and has the power to transform lives.”

Reading for pleasure is actually the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income.

World Book Day is a charity funded by publishers and National Book Tokens, and it organises a huge array of events to get kids excited about reading, from author visits to online classes.

Central to this is the annual £1 books scheme, where authors and illustrators create special mini editions of stories starring their popular characters. These are given free to every school child across the country.

Over two million books were supplied to children in 2021 alone and one in five pupils receiving free school meals said the book they ‘bought’ with their WBD book token was the first book they had of their own.

I find that moving to hear, when my boys have shelves of stories to choose from.

There is an official WBD illustrator too. This year it is Allen Fatimaharan and previous ones include Rob Biddulph and Sophy Henn.

I love to see all the pictures of children in their outfits on social media. Anything that embraces the joy of stories is fine by me.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers for World Book Day 2021.
William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors for 2020
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle in 2019.
Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schleffer in 2018.

This year, Baby Bookworm’s school are doing pyjamas or comfy reading clothes instead of characters, but we have found a way to merge the two.

He’s gone as a young Michael Rosen from Chocolate Cake – one of our all time favourite picture books.

His little brother is channelling The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, a role he takes very seriously with method acting preparation, eating us out of house and home.

Our costumes for World Book Day 2022.
Re-enacting a scene from Chocolate Cake

After they got dressed, Baby Bookworm turned to me unprompted and said: “I love World Book Day because you get to live in a book for a day.”

Given what horrors are unfolding in the real world right now, I’m glad our children get to escape into stories, not just today but every day.

Find out more about World Book Day

You may also like…
The best books about cakes and bakes
Eric Carle shares his favourite books
Why we love We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

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