How to put the BOOK, back into World BOOK DAY?

Over the years, World Book Day has sadly become more about dressing up, than the love of books & appreciation of stories.     

Families across the country get stressed at the annual mission to have a World Book Day costume created purchased or sorted.

What about children whose household forgot, didn’t have time or just haven’t got the funds to splash out on a shop-bought outfit?

Lesley Tait agrees "This is the ethos of our service Flexible Childcare Services Dundee. We understand the struggles that many of our families have and put no pressure on them to have to buy anything extra. We focus on our children and not on festivals or themes".

At The Curiosity Approach®, we have moved away from the purchase of mass-produced costumes & look to get back to old fashioned PLAY & values. To deeply reflect & consider the true meaning of WHY!  Tara Thompson a member of The Curiosity Approach® says "I live in an economically deprived area and when my daughters were in primary school it broke my heart to hear parents stressing about dress up and the cost when a lot couldn't afford the basics!"

Traditions are hard to break - but are they more like well-intentioned HABITS that we have gotten ourselves into year after year & have forgotten the reason WHY we began them in the first instance? 

So WHY do we recognise World Book Day?


World Book Day was first created in 1995 by UNESCO - World Book and was aimed at promoting reading & love of BOOKS.

Their website quotes "The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own" 

Did you know 1 in 8 disadvantaged children in the UK say that they don’t have a book of their own?

"Children who say they have a book of their own are three times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than their peers who don’t own a book".  Based on The Literacy report The National Literacy trust states their key findings are: 

  • 9% of children and young people say that they don’t own or have a book of their own at home, a statistic that has remained static over the past year. This means that 1 in 11 children and young people in the UK miss the benefits of having their own books
  • This ratio drops to 1 in 8 pupils who receive free school meals who told us that they don’t have a book of their own at home
  • 51.24 is the average number of books owned by children and young people who say that they have books of their own at home
  • Not only do fewer disadvantaged pupils say that they have a book of their own at home than their advantaged peers, but those who do have books of their own report fewer books than their more advantaged peers (39.8 vs. 52.6)


So if 1in 8 children are saying they don't have a book at home, surely our focus should be in giving children access to books and stories, instead of having to spend money on costumes and World Book day challenges. 

Let’s consider a new way to celebrate...

In preparation for this years event, let’s reconsider some alternatives to the norm & step back to a place where LOVE of books & the POWER of stories is our focus!

Become a true World Book Day warrior and challenge traditions, to remove the focus on dressing up costumes and see how we can bring books and stories into all children's lives. 

I appreciate that many excuses will be “but the children love dressing up!”

Children are always welcome in the Early Years to come dressed up. We are NOT banning children from turning up in an outfit - that’s not a mindful or heart-centred approach. So of course, if children want to dress up they can! Especially if this has been a tradition in settings for decades, it’ll take time to change to a new approach & switch the thinking that World Book Day is just about costumes

However, our focus is a new appreciation of World Book Day - regaining the focus on the love of books & stories, instead of what outfit will children wear!

Lindsey Moore of our Curiosity Approach®Academy shares her thinking and how her daughter transformed an old school shirt to show her love of the book The Lost World, "World Book Day should never be about expensive costumes and consumerism. I hate that even as a parent you feel the pressure to purchase a costume. At work years ago my daughter surprised me with a costume she created. She was 8 at the time".

Here is a photo of her handmade costume and she wore it with pride. 

Jackie Morris the illustrator of the book The Lost World sent Rose a letter in appreciation of her efforts.


Amy from Huggles Childcare said:  "I'm a mum of 4 and money was always tight when my eldest 2 were at primary. I got the 'looks' off people and comments on days like these but I didn't care and my children didn't either as they were proud as they made it. We always made costumes or just put something together that we had at home from their favourite books and they got so much out of it rather than just buying an outfit to 'fit in'".

"My childminding children now all use scarves to dress up with, they use their imaginations which is amazing. A little one used a blue scarf to wrap around herself and she became Elsa. The children used a green one for a dinosaur, boxes for robots, the list goes on. The other children follow her and they also now think this way too.  My own 1-year-old we can now sit and have a conversation, he uses 4 to 5 words in a sentence and this is all down to the love he has for books. Today's society is all about having the latest of this, the latest of that, it's forgetting the basics which are sad. This is why I love The Curiosity Approach®,     
it's changed me as a mum and as an Early Years Practitioner".  Amy Bayliss, Huggles Childcare

Here are a few more ideas and some useful alternatives to help you show parents and carers you understand the time implications and financial pressures they may face and take The Curiosity Approach® pledge to reignite a love of books & stories for our children ( just as it was intended in 1995 by UNESCO):       

1. Bedtime stories. Send out letters and invite parents, carers and children to come into your setting for the last hour in their pyjamas. Serve warm milk or warm apple juice and homemade healthy snacks. Educators, children and parents look to share their favourite books and stories or poems. We did this and it was such an utter success & great parent partnership too. We sat on cushions with blankets & had a wonderful evening of bedtime stories, with children wrapped up warm and cosy in pyjamas, dressing gowns and slippers. 


 2. Let's Create - Provide the children with a wealth of recycled resources, foil, cardboard, newspaper, paper, ribbon, sellotape etc. Together we can create costumes & characters. What a fun task. Mix it up with your dressing up resources & create our own stories and act our imaginations and extend creativity. 

  3. Book Swop - Instead of asking parents to create or buy a costume, ask them to lend a book or donate a pre-loved age-appropriate book. Books can be swopped between children & ensure you express they are NOT expected to buy new books. This is about sharing a love of books and not putting pressure on families. 

 4.  Community Lending Library for your setting. Each of our sites has a box outside for children to borrow & return books. Ask parents to donate pre-loved books to share. Parents carers and the community can take a book, borrow a book or return and take a new one home. The stigma is removed and children can access books freely, without constraints of getting to, joining or accessing a library. Remove all barriers to accessing books.  Libraries are a great place to visit however, some children may not have access to one on a regular basis

5. Book Treasures: Ask the children to bring in a treasure that represents a favourite book, e.g. a tiny star inspired by the book "To Catch a Star".     


Encourages lots of conversation, chatter and sharing ideas and stories. Again a great opportunity at home to encourage parent/carer & child collaboration to find an object or book they love.

6. Provocations & Invitations to Learning linked to the children’s favourite story.

Remember its FOLLOWING CHILDREN’S interests and NOT adults choice or wishes.  It is NOT about themes or rooms transformed to look like a story but a child-centred approach. Provide children with the book and the resources & let THEIR play evolve!     
You ignite the SPARK - the children then run with it!

Set up some inspiration play opportunities that spark imagination, creativity and PLAY.     



There are lots of ways as Early Years Educators we can reclaim World Book Day for its prime objective LOVE of Books. 

Released from the traditions and marketing of larger supermarket chains.       

Diane Koplewsky of Sleepy Hollow Childcare says "it seems schools have dress-up days or dress down days for lots of reasons now. How can parents sustain buying these expensive dress-up clothes, because dear forbid you happen to wear the same costume twice !! This totally is a consumer-driven event  Last year I actually posted about this on our own page - our local larger grocery shop had a lobby full of dress-up outfits for World Book Day but not a child’s book on its shelves".

So who is with us? Who is going to take the pledge to rescue World Book Day from the assumption it's all about dressing up or buying an outfit from the local Supermarket?   

Remember the National Literacy Trust research shows that children who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have good mental wellbeing than children who don’t enjoy reading

 Be mindful too, even the request to create outfits at home, can unwittingly add extra pressure on parents and carers, especially if they haven't the pens or resources to get creative.  Why not provide resources for children to borrow, felt pens and paper to take home, to create their own pictures or just create your outfits within your Early Years Educational setting and ensure every child feels included.  Think beyond traditional norms and ensure every child is treated with equal respect and consideration.  

Let's rethink these traditions and consumer-driven ideas. 

Let us recapture the essence of World Book Day and hand it back to the children with true intention,  allowing children to value and appreciate books and stories.  



Finally -

Here are some great book quotes we love to share- 

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand. –Neil Gaiman

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.–Marcel Proust

"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” — Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax all you need is a book!” – Dr. Seuss

"Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read."


So together lets put the focus back on BOOKS and NOT COSTUMES.


Enjoy World Book day everyone and stay CURIOUS!