What is it?
The aim of World Book Day is simple –to get children not just reading, but enjoying it. It dates back to the ’90s and is celebrated in a hundred countries around the world. It’s also the perfect opportunity for the PTA to get in on the action.
Books for all
The benefits of World Book Day extend far beyond the day itself – it gets children reading for pleasure and encourages them to talk about books with their friends. Often through dressing up, children are able to explore new titles and authors they may not otherwise read. Reading for pleasure is so valuable, it’s been shown to be more important for a child’s educational success than their parents’ circumstances or income (OECD, 2002). For some children, it’s a chance to have something they’ve never had before – one in five children receiving free school meals said the book they’d purchased with their World Book Day token was the first one they’d ever owned (National Literacy Trust survey, 2021).
Alternatives to fancy dress
- Sleepwear – it’s not just younger children who enjoy cosying up for story time, even older readers love curling up in bed with a book
- Dress a potato – rather than dressing up themselves, get children to decorate a potato as a literary character
- Decorate a plain white T-shirt – get the craft box out and recreate a favourite book cover, or design a new one
- Dress as a word – you can narrow this further if you like (for instance, dressing as an adjective) or leave it as open as possible
- Decorate a stick (left) – think of it like a mask but less restrictive, let your imagination run wild with paints or coloured pens or pencils, as you bring your favourite character to life.
Be inspired by famous faces
- Marcus Rashford has been vocal about his love of reading – as well as penning his own books, he’s also started the Marcus Rashford Book Club
- Michael Rosen and David Baddiel are among the children’s authors talking about their work on the Words For Life virtual school library at Words for Life
- The CBBC Book Club encourages readers to share their love of reading, as well as featuring content from authors including Jacqueline Wilson and Sophie Dahl.
- Acclaimed children’s author David Walliams has a VIP Book Club, with competitions, videos and book news.
Keep it inclusive
World Book Day celebrations should be for all children, not just those whose parents have money to spare. Here are some suggestions to make sure everyone can join in the fun:
- Book swap – get everyone to donate a book from home and let them swap it for another one. If there are children who don’t have any books at home, operate a token system so even those who aren’t donating a book can still benefit
- Host a ‘booknic’ – what’s better than a picnic? A picnic with books! Let children share their love of reading over a packed lunch. Classrooms or the school hall can act as a wet weather alternative
- Become a book reviewer – if they’re donating a book to swap, get children to write a bit about it, and who might enjoy it, and put a note on the cover. It costs nothing, but gets them to think about reading – and their friends are more likely to get a book they enjoy
- Start a monthly book club – foster a love of not only reading but also talking about reading, and hearing other people talk about their enjoyment of books. They don’t all have to read the same book – let them talk about something they’ve enjoyed.
Costume sale – if your school dresses up for World Book Day, get people to donate their pre-loved costumes from previous years and hold a sale.
Book sale – get children to have a clear-out at home and bring in books they’ve outgrown, then sell these at a second-hand book stall at school for 50p or £1 each.
Fancy dress disco – children will love the chance to show off their literary costumes even longer, hitting the dancefloor for some rip-roaring, musical fun.
Readathon – give children a sponsorship form and ask them to get sponsored for reading; the more they read, the more they raise for the PTA. Sponsors can donate per minute of reading, or a flat fee. Younger children needn’t miss out, they can be sponsored per minute of being read to.
Slumber party – get everyone to wear their cosiest PJs or onesies for an evening of storytelling. Recruit volunteers to read from some well-loved favourites, or sell tickets and get a local author to come in and read their work. Make money by selling hot chocolate with marshmallows, and wine for the parents.
Success story: We gave a book to every child on World Book Day
‘I think that reading can take children into a whole new world. Books can teach, they can entertain and even bring inspiration. But some pupils at our school do not have easy access to books at home. To try and help, our PTA decided that this World Book Day would be different. Instead of a fundraiser, we would give a book to every child at school.
Over half-term, we worked our socks off. We began by posting on local Facebook groups asking for donations. We were completely prepared to purchase some books ourselves to reach our target, but this was not necessary. We were inundated! In fact, I spent much of that half-term driving around Milton Keynes, my boot piled high with paperbacks.
We were overjoyed by the quality of the books gifted to us. We received entire preteen series for the older children and brilliant picture books for the early readers. With so much on offer, we arrived early on the morning of World Book Day to set up tables in the school hall. We organised the books by age and designated a special table for Year 6.
One teacher kindly made a timetable for us. This meant that each class had a 15-minute slot to visit the hall and choose their books. Children with special educational needs were invited to visit the hall separately if they wanted a more peaceful atmosphere.
Excitement crackled in the air as everyone arrived in costume – even the teachers had committed to dressing up! Looking around the hall, we spotted countless little Harry Potters and one boy who had dressed as a character from Matilda with chocolate all over his face.
We smiled at how sassy some of the children were as they selected their books. At other times, I felt emotional. As one girl chose her book, she revealed that she had nothing to read at home. Quietly, we had a word with the teachers. They put aside a pile of books that could be rotated between the children in her position.
The teachers made it. At some points, it felt as though they were more excited than the children. Afterward, they described the fantastic buzz in the classrooms as the children returned clutching their new stories. After such a heart-warming day, we have made a pact to run this event again next World Book Day. Only this time, our PTA will dress up too.’
Nicola Stynes, chair of Friends of Chestnuts Primary School PTA, Milton Keynes (408 pupils)