Today is World Book Day – the day each year when children (and adults!) dress up as their favourite characters and celebrate all things reading. It might have looked a little different today, as all the author visits, special readings, and dressing up was happening on zoom, but not even a global pandemic could stop the bookish celebrations.
However, behind the fun of World Book Day, there’s a serious point. According to research carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 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. That’s pretty incredible, isn’t it? From this idea, World Book Day was born – with all the activities designed to encourage reading for pleasure to become a lifelong habit.
Created by UNESCO in 1995, the day is marked in over 100 countries. The aim is for every child to have a book of their own – to ensure this, World Book Day gifted 1.03 million books to children in the UK and Ireland in 2020.
Children are given a gift token so that they can choose the book they would like themselves from a large selection of specially selected WBD books. For 3 out of 10 children who receive free school meals, the book they got with their WBD token last year was their very first book of their own.
I consider myself very lucky to have been brought up in a house full of books and keen readers. One of my favourite books as a child was Maggy Scraggle Loves the Beautiful Ice Cream Man by Jill McDonald, a slightly bizarre tale of a witch (Maggy) who happens to fall for a prince dashingly disguised as an ice cream man (he’s keen to find someone who loves him for him, rather than his crown). The fact that they both (spoiler alert!) end up living out their days as frogs, and the whole story turns fairy tale tropes upside down, was probably part of the appeal, as were the marvellous drawings of their colourful clothes, Prince Sintypuppa’s full sleeve tattoos and his rather snazzy looking moped.
I read Maggy Scraggle (along with many other books) over and over again, and this to me is what reading for pleasure is all about – by returning to a story, although you might find new things in it each time, the pleasure is in the familiar; familiarity encourages easy escapism, and escapism activates imagination.
I know that many people grow out of re-reading books, but even now I will generally read most books twice, and I have some favourites that I’ve read multiple times. I just find that as a story becomes more familiar, I discover more about it that I love. The book I’ve re-read most is probably The Secret History by Donna Tartt – if you haven’t read it, I urge you to. You find out what has happened on page one (like a Columbo!), and the rest of the book explores how the characters got to that point. I first read it on holiday in Spain at the height of summer, but the book transported me to snowy New England. Like many of Donna Tartt’s books, it’s quite chilly in atmosphere – the characters aren’t exactly likeable, but they are completely compelling. With every re-read I feel like I spend time with old friends, relishing again in their quirks and foibles – and although I’m quite glad not to know any of them in real life, considering what they get up to – it’s a total pleasure to spend that time with them again, peeking into lives so completely unlike my own.
Are you much of a re-reader? If not, perhaps this will inspire you to go and hang out with some old friends again and enjoy their company (even if only until lockdown lifts and we can do that for real).
And if you’re celebrating Mother’s Day on 14th March, and would like to send a bookish gift, there’s a special Big Bees 2 month subscription available here, to help you out! The March book, Superpowers by Mark A Radcliffe is an absolute corker – perfect for saluting the secret superhero in your life.
With bookish love,
For more on World Book Day, their mission and impact, visit here
To see me dressed as Maggy Scraggle herself, check out today’s post on Bumblebee’s instagram.