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Is it time to re-think dressing up for World Book Day?

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It was the 25th anniversary of World Book Day recently. With the wonderful offer of a book token for every child, at the heart of this celebration of reading is a mission to make reading together and reading for pleasure a habit for life.

Dressing up for World Book Day has become something of a tradition over the years. For many children, getting to be someone else for the day, and maybe even see the adults around you dress up as well, is imaginative and fun. There can be lots of learning - thinking about book characters, what they look and act like, and getting creative with things that will help you to ‘become’ them. But how inclusive is dressing up for a special day? For some children and adults it can be a source of anxiety and stress.

So what’s wrong with dressing up for World Book Day?

For lots of reasons, there will be many staff and children who don’t like dressing up. They may find it uncomfortable or embarrassing. For neurodivergent children and adults a dressing up day may mean people being unusual because they are acting out a character, changes to routines, and confusing sensory experiences. Lots of grown-ups don’t like fancy dress parties and choose not to go. Children are also entitled to choose not to dress up – but in doing so they may then feel left out.  

Family life is hectic. And for some it will be more hectic than for others. Finding the time to sort a costume can be a big ask and adds to the pressure of everyday life that week.

Dressing up can cost money. With supermarkets and online stores hijacking the dressing up tradition associated with World Book Day, some parents and carers may find a solution to the problem of costume sourcing by buying a ready-to-wear outfit. But many families won’t be able to do this, or don’t want to…

…and often these ready-to-wear costumes are worn once and quickly grown out of, meaning they are not great environmentally either.

But getting back to the reason for World Book Day in the first place, the focus on dressing up takes the focus away from books and stories and reading. It becomes all about the outfit.

What are settings and schools doing instead?

Some settings and schools have opted to have a Pyjama Day, with everyone coming in their PJs. The thinking being that PJs are something that most people have already, and also that they are about bedtime, which is often a time for reading a book.

Or how about a visit from an author or illustrator to talk about their books or do some writing or artwork with the children?

Time for reading is precious. Just a day with more time to read with children, talk about books, make books, listen to stories and experience the magic they can bring would be more than enough to celebrate World Book Day.

No costumes required.

Watch some wonderful people read a bit of their favourite book for you.

Read a bit more about Pyjama Days here.

Check out the World Book Day website.


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