World Book Day. A day to celebrate books, or at least that’s the idea. Too often, it turns into a stressful build up for parents as they frantically try to find costumes for their children that a) they will want to wear and b) don’t cost a fortune. This results in many children dressing as characters or people who, technically speaking, aren’t really book characters, except in so far as they appear in ‘the book of the film’ or they’d written an autobiography. Yes, Elsa and Ronaldo, I’m looking at you!
When my eldest was little, I got my knickers into a proper twist about this and we fell out on numerous occasions because he wanted to go dressed as Doctor Who, while I insisted he had to go as a ‘proper’ book character. As he got older however, we had to compromise slightly because ‘everyone else is just going in normal clothes, Mum’ so in his last two years of dressing up, he went as Sherlock – the Benedict Cumberbatch version and George from George’s Marvellous Medicine where his sole concession to a costume was a couple of old shower gel bottles with brightly coloured liquid in them and labels proclaiming that they were indeed ‘marvellous medicine’!
However, when I gave up working full time, World Book Day became a bit different. His teachers knew I wrote books so asked if I’d be prepared to come in and talk to the different year groups about being a writer – how I got ideas, writing techniques etc etc. Of course, I was delighted, so duly dressed myself up and headed into the school to share my knowledge. It felt like I was a proper author for the first time! I had a lovely day talking to all the different year groups about writing, but the best part was saved until last. I’d written a story for my son’s class, using ideas from all kinds of children’s fiction – going into another world, using toilets to transport there and warring queens fighting over a kingdom, but it was all about them. Every child in the class and their teacher had a role in the story and at least one line to say. I got to read it to them and it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I’d prepared a little note for parents saying that if they wanted a copy of the book, they could order it through me, not really expecting many of the children to want one, but I’d underestimated them and it was so popular that I ended up ordering almost a whole class set and signing them.
This year, I offered to write a story for my youngest son’s pre-school class as a way of saying thank-you for the excellent care he’s getting. I’d only intended to write a little story, but as these things often do, it spiralled into something bigger. After months of wracking my brain trying to think of something to write – books for small children are really not my forte – I eventually had a brain wave at lunchtime on Friday. By Friday evening, I’d written the story, bought a teddy bear from the local charity shop and taken photos with him to illustrate the story, turned it into a powerpoint for the pre-school to use and created a physical copy of the book on Amazon. When the hard copies arrived on Tuesday, I got the same thrill as if I’d written a full-length novel. Is it my best work? No. Does that matter? No. What matters was the response it got. The pre-school were delighted, my son loves the fact that he’s in the story and some of the photos and the children loved the story. The most satisfying part was hearing that one little boy had asked where ‘Barney’ was (I donated the bear to the pre-school) and was delighted when he saw him sitting on a chair. When I took the copy of the book in, the same boy was the first to see it and on being given it, went straight to the reading corner to look at it. For me, that’s what World Book Day is all about – instilling a love of reading into children. In a world that isn’t always kind or fair, books offer an escape to a world that often makes more sense than our own and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?