Today is World Book Day. A day that for some parents fills them with absolute dread while other’s can’t wait.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I am a big fan of any day designed to get children excited about books. I love seeing my social media filled with smiling faces holding up their favourite book all dressed up as their favourite character. I love seeing what the Tiny Idiot decides to go as, and frantically trying to fabric glue things together. I love seeing what the parents who are actually crafty create.
And then the negative comments come…
People moaning about kids dressed as Disney Princesses, people moaning about kids dressed as superheroes, people moaning about kids dressed as Chase from Paw Patrol.
‘Go as a proper character from a proper book!’ people who didn’t have to get a child in fancy dress at 8am this morning yell, ‘It’s just lazy!’
First of all, you’re passing judgement on a six year old, maybe wind that one in a bit yeah?
Secondly, snobbery about literature helps nobody.
There were loads of characters on the school run today that are more recognisable from TV and film than they are from books, but the books do exist. I saw Snow White excitedly clutching her copy, I also saw Spider Man with his. These are books that children love, their love of the character may have originally come from watching the film, but that doesn’t mean they love the books any less.
There are families who don’t see the same importance in having a houseful of books as some of us do, parents who don’t read and therefore don’t push their children to. There are children that see reading as a chore, something they struggle with and hate. If they find solace in a book of a film they love why not let them? If sticking a Minion on the front of a book means a child who doesn’t get reading picks it up, how is that a bad thing?
There are also just kids who don’t want to wear your homemade James and the Giant Peach costume. And parents who don’t have bloody time to papier mache a Cat in the Hat hat.
The snobbery of ‘dressing as a proper character’ is exactly what puts people off finding a love for literature. When you sent that tweet ‘despairing’ at the sea of Elsas this morning what are you achieving? All you are doing it creating a barrier, a barrier that as our children grow only gets stronger. Between the educated and the less so. Between the classes.
You didn’t mean it like that, of course, you just would never send your child as a film character because you read. Except you probably did; most of the Roald Dahl characters are also film characters, so are the Julia Donaldsons. Dorothy? Yep. Queen of Hearts? Yep. Hungry Caterpillar? Afraid so.
What came first, the book or the film? Who gives a shit as long as they’re reading.
We have a no Disney rule in our house for Book Day, but that’s because we don’t have the books. Tiny Idiot on first ask will think about what the most extravagant outfit in her dressing up box is and go for that. That would be her Merida dress. We’ve never read the Brave book though, so we encourage her to go have a look at her bookshelf and think about what her favourite there is.
This year she decided on Amelia Earhart thanks to Little People, Big Dreams and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World. Guess what, Amelia isn’t originally a literary character, but we’ve not experienced any Book Day snobs. Funny that…
Instead of spending your day judging children for the books they choose to read and the characters they love why not encourage a few more kids to read? Send your favourite children’s book to your friend’s kid, or donate a copy to your local charity shop. Donate to Book Aid and ensure people everywhere can learn the wonder of literature. Or donate to Give A Book to help those who need it can have the escape of a good book.
Step down off your soapbox, today is about celebrating books in all shapes and sizes. Nobody likes them all. Your opinion on what makes a good book isn’t more important than anybody else’s.