There has been much coverage on the TV and radio of World Book Day.
This is something I’m familiar with but don’t really know that much about, so I have been on the World Book Day website to find out a little more. The 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.” That alone has to be applauded.
The first thing is the fact that this year’s World Book Day is the 18th year it has been in operation. I thought it was much younger than that.
Another surprise was that World Book Day is organised by UNESCO and takes place in over 100 countries. Again I didn’t know this and all credit to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. My final surprise was that children have the opportunity to get a free book (is there ever anything free in life – apparently so). Good stuff, but who funds it? Is it the taxpayer (me and you) via a government grant? Well no, World Book Day funding “comes mainly from contributing publishers, the generous sponsorship of National Book Tokens Ltd, some literacy partnerships and other supporters, as well as the participating booksellers who fund the entire cost of Book Token redemption”. Have a look at their friends and partners for a comprehensive list.
Going back to TV coverage I have mainly seen images of young children in classrooms dressed “fancy” and portraying one of their favourite literary characters. I suspect, however, that it’s more to do with the ease parents can get their child/children ready and “fancily” dressed rather than a conscious literary choice of the child. I do hope so as the characters I have seen portrayed are more about Batman, Superman, Cinderella and Barbie than some of our more serious literary characters. This of course may be a sweeping generalisation as the images I have seen have only been from one classroom.
But wait! In this age of ever decreasing standards of literacy, am I being unreasonable? Should I just be pleased that children are reading anything, let alone “good” literature (whatever that may be). I suspect that I should. Is there anything wrong with reading the Beano, My Little Pony or a cornflakes packet? At least it is kids (and some adults I suspect) reading. Hopefully they will progress to more serious stuff later, but never-the-less should we see it as a good start? It’s a shame that there aren’t more words in computer games as we may then produce a nation of literary giants!
I once attended a lecture given by David Crystal, a world renowned expert in the English language. As part of the lecture David argued that text speak was OK and we should see it as a development of the English language. It was good, at least, that younger people were communicating via the written word and to abbreviate words for phones and tablets the writer and reader would need to know the original word. So perhaps this gives a little more evidence in the fact that all reading (and writing) should be regarded as good, no matter what the content.
I’m not an educator of children, but my view is that any encouragement we can give to kids to read has got to be good, particularly in this day of other “easier options”.
Is this a sensible view? Do you have any experience of World Book Day and does it have any impact? Should we only be encouraging kids to read “sensible” stuff?
A final thought – today’s kids are tomorrow’s book buyers.