Friday 3 March 2017

On Why I'll Still Be Dressing Up For World Book Day And The Power Of Books

There has been increasing dissent over World Book Day and its staple activity: dressing up as a book character (although I heard of one school whose children had to come dress up as an adjective!). Does it really encourage children to read, or to become true readers? Can a one-off event really 'get' children to read?

There are plenty of other initiatives out there too that are intended to encourage children to engage in reading. Extreme reading photograph competitions, reading reward programmes, author visits, library trips, decorated reading corner contests, book lucky dips, sleepovers, literary lunches and all manner of other events and programmes - all are carried out in the name of promoting reading for pleasure and creating life-long readers. 

I've led on reading in a previous school where we did most of the above things - Ofsted noted that 'pupil's achievement in reading is outstanding'. But can such events and initiatives really have such an impact?

I would say yes, with one caveat: that all of the above are truly book-centred. By this I mean that whatever is done in the name of encouraging reading actually involves the opening, and reading of books. If everything is done tokenistically, however, paying lip service to books, taking the name of books in vain, then there will be no impact. But if books are being read, then they are being allowed to do their thing.

You see, books contain power. The power to grab a reader by the scruff of the neck and drag them kicking and screaming into a literary chokehold. Or sometimes they have the power to reach out and take the reluctant reader in a loving embrace, comforting them and whispering sweet lullabies, enchanting them with beautiful words and far-flung worlds. Books have the power to whisk a non-reader away on an unforgettable reading honeymoon that they'll forever seek to replicate as they court book after book after book. Books persuade, they cajole, they seduce, they occupy, they engage - they can be absolutely tyrannical. 

Books contain power and if we can let those covers open and give our children even the smallest of glances, eventually these children will meet their match. And their match will change their lives forever. Of course, the opportunities we provide must be meaningful and some children will require more structure and perseverance than others, but eventually, books can take a hold of anyone.

So if dressing up is what's necessary to allow the innate power of books to prevail, then that is what we must do. If events and initiatives are what it takes to unleash the potential in the books that sit, waiting, on our library or book corner shelves, then fill up your calendar.

But you don't need to wait for those days and weeks in order to marvel at the wonders those pages contain - every day, every lesson is an opportunity to read from those books. Anyone who dislikes dressing up for World Book Day only does so because they really love books and regularly experience the delights of daily reading. They are the ones who hold the secrets of how the power of books can be unleashed every time our children step into their classrooms - so don't dismiss them for their strongly held views, listen to what they are holding up as an alternative... and then do both.

Our question again: how do we 'get' children into reading?

The simple answer?


Reading books. With them. To them. 

Books. Whether that's in front of a class of dubiously-costumed 5-year-olds, in that timetabled reading session or during a topic lesson, the answer is books. Be that a lunchtime book club, a visit  to a book shop, or the coach ride to the museum, the answer is books. Always books.

Only books will 'get' children into reading so use them in abundance, prolifically, and at every opportunity. They will do their thing.

Click here to read more about reading!

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