For years now, World Book Day has been a staple of many people’s childhoods. It’s been a day dedicated in the year to inspire new generations of people to get out there and read something new, something exciting, even something simple – all just for the pleasure of simply reading. Schools across the country gear up to encourage children to dress as their favourite book characters (I unabashedly dressed up in a killer Mad Hatter costume once, as well as being Mr Twit who was mistaken for Hagrid on multiple occasions), and it breathes life into the worlds that inhabit books and cements the fact that stories are much more than something we read. In fact, books are a cultural phenomenon, one of the oldest forms of entertainment, and in a world that gears towards a digital age, we can always rely on that one day of the year, World Book Day, to encourage us to put down our phones, gaming consoles, and TVs and get lost in the magic of the words on the page and our fruitful imagination. Yet, this begs a question: what is the origin of World Book Day?
Created by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in April 1995, the first World Book Day took place in the UK and Ireland in 1997, aimed at the goal of “encourag[ing]young people to discover the pleasure of reading.” As founder Baroness Gail Rebuck states, reading is “fun, relevant, accessible, exciting, and has the power to transform lives,” and along with the pleasure of reading, there’s always been a huge educational bonus to reading as well. As stated on the World Book Day website, “reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income.” By reading books (even for as little as ten minutes a day), a child can become equipped with the tools necessary to secure themselves a better future, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds; encouraging a lifestyle that sees the world as filled with endless possibilities and a whole lot of magic. In a sense, books broaden intellectual horizons as well as inspiring something undeniable in children, and it’s not hard to see why World Book Stay has become a staple of childhood in Britain for all it encourages.
What’s more, World Book Day is much more than a day that is simply devoted to adults telling children that they should probably read a book for a bit. Instead, it’s grown into nothing short of a sensation, that sees the magic of books leaping from their pages and coming into the real world. Even if you aren’t a fan of reading, dressing up as your favourite character is something many remember fondly, and it’s a great way that children are introduced to the fun of books even without reading them. I hadn’t ever read a book in my own time till a girl came into school dressed as an uncanny Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda, inspiring me to venture into the book and see what all the fuss was about. Plus, World Book Day isn’t about making authors rich, instead, using the platform to encourage new selections of great books sold at a reasonable price of £1, or even going as far as they did in my school, to give every child a free book of their choice.
In the process over the years, World Book Day has been about possibilities and fun, a fact that books capture in themselves, and something that never lessens. It’s a truly special day, a day many of us remember fondly as our childhood. As a campaign to encourage children to read, it’s a day many of us eagerly anticipated (especially book worms like myself).