world book day

The Problem with World Book Day

Firstly dear readers let me say that I am liable to sound a bit like a grumpy old woman here and for that you must forgive me, but the thing is I am a grumpy old woman and World Book Day winds me up!! There are many things about World Book Day that are fantastic namely the original premise of giving every child and young person a book of their own and a celebration of books and reading, but the money that gets spent and the perhaps wasted opportunity to really engage kids with books is a shame!

World Book Day

I love reading and have spent hundreds of happy hours being carried away by the words of authors.  I have used books to help me relax, to help me sleep, for entertainment, as holiday pastimes and in the case of Harry Potter, to help a 20 something me escape the sadness of a break up. So I really do genuinely believe in the importance of engaging children with reading and I love the idea of dedicating a day at school to finding the fun in reading.  This year at the kid’s school they will have an author coming in and will have loads fun sessions around books and reading.  These ideas and many others that I have seen seem to me like they could make a difference.  A child’s imagination could be captured by a book and perhaps a love of reading could be sparked.  I have a very reluctant reader so I would be thrilled if this did ignite even an interest in him….  However, I feel like there is a problem with world book day.


All the focus is on dressing up

I feel that the real reasons for World Book Day even existing have gotten a bit lost.  As with most things in this world it has become a commercial enterprise and I blame this on the dressing up element of the day.  Why?  Why do the children need to dress up?  This part of world book day has our house in turmoil for a few reasons:

  • One of the boys doesn’t like dressing up and so doesn’t want to do it and has poo poo’d every character suggestion, but he equally does not want to be the only child in the school not in costume as this would mean wearing his uniform.  So that is issue number one;  if you don’t enjoy dressing up and basically have to then this could in fact turn you off books.
  • There have been lengthy debates about what everyone could be.  I have been trying to encourage the children to go as characters from books they have read or that I have read to them, but no they don’t want to be Julian from the Famous Five or an Alien wearing underpants.  They want to be characters from How to Train your Dragon – not an issue I hear you say, it is a book I hear you say.  I know, but not one they have ever read or indeed that we own.  They only want to be these characters because of the movies and TV show and discovered the happy coincidence that these stories are also books!  If I am being kind I could think that perhaps this will then motivate them to read the books, but I don’t think it will.  I don’t believe that dressing up, fun as it may be, has an impact on whether a child reads more, but I know it has an impact on my time and or bank balance!
  • World Book Day has unfortunately been seized upon by every supermarket, delivery retail store and shop pretty much as an opportunity to make some money.  It sort of feels like Valentines Day when you get ripped off left right and centre for flowers and cards.  I think perhaps the idea of world book day has become completely overshadowed by children clamouring to get a great costume and frankly it can run out very expensive.  To me this is a missed opportunity.  If all the kids care about is what character they will be I think the point of the day might be missed.  
  • The pressure on parents.  If your little lovely is desperate to be a certain character I really think that it is tough for a parent to say no. We never want to disappoint our children, but suppose you couldn’t afford that costume and couldn’t make it then I feel like parents would feel a pressure.  Even if there isn’t that financial constraint I am fairly sure that most of us feel some level of stress or pressure to get the costume or make the costume.  I don’t think this is in the spirit of the day and I for one feel like I have enough to do without this too!!
  • The Environmental impact – this might sound a bit daft, but for example this year I ordered 4 costumes (see next point for why I didn’t make them)  and I could only get two of the requested ones from the same shop.  Therefore I had 3 separate deliveries.  Three vans driving around to deliver my parcels.  Multiply this by millions of other families who didn’t make or reuse across the 100 countries who mark the day and I am fairly sure there is an environmental impact.  
  • Time –  this is my other issue with World Book Day.  I know I don’t have to buy costumes I could make something.  I could spend hours on pinterest trying to conceive how to fashion a toothless dragon costume out of a loo roll and some tissue paper, but I just don’t have the time.  If I am honest I don’t have the creative talent either, but that is another issue!!  With everything else that is going on everyday of the week in this busy household A Team style transformations of crap into magnificent masterpieces just isn’t going to happen which brings me back to throwing money at World Book Day!!


So on 7th March this year we will be sending Hiccup, Toothless (refusing to wear the mask so just a boy in an odd looking black onesie), Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood off to school.  This reminds me that I still have to organise a basket for Red Riding Hood and a bowl for Goldilocks…. 

Much as I am moaning… in my heart I know I will be there with everyone else taking pictures.  Hell I will probably even post them on instagram, but I promise to hate myself a bit inside for it 😉   


There will no doubt be a tinge of regret that I threw cash at this and had amazon parcels flying everywhere in the name of World Book Day.  Still I am not sure that could ever outweigh the relief I feel not having to Blue Peter a costume out of nothing!

  I do promise though that when the kids get home from school that day we will start reading How to Train Your Dragon to make me feel like less of a hypocrite 🙂

World Book Day


So what do you think of World Book Day? 

Do you think that it has a positive impact on your kid’s engagement with books and reading

Perhaps you agree that it is too much about the costumes?

I would love to hear your thoughts!


33 thoughts on “The Problem with World Book Day”

  1. Hmmm….World Book Day must have skipped the US. I have never heard of it. My kids definitely did not participate when they were in school. It does sound like a lot of work for parents.

  2. Mhm never heard of world book day as another, spring version of Halloween where everybody dresses up. somewhat defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? I’m all for inspiring interest in books and reading but not sure if this can be achieved through merchandise, great stories would be the way to go… #globalblogging

  3. As a self-published author I love books and how it sparks the imagination. I do however understand what you mean about focusing on dressing up. Not too keen on that aspect as I would rather the focus be on READING and moral of the story. #dreamteam

  4. I love reading as well, but i agree with you. I think there could be other ways of celebrating it in school or with the kids than costumes. That could look like a reading contest that starts a month before World book day. #dreamteam

  5. Oh lovely i feel your pain….now think of teachers who have to dress up too. This is my upteenth world book day and im wInnie the pooh this year so i can chill out in my onsie. Last year i was miss trunchball and nearly scared my poor class to death. The year before a witch i think…..then i was a red crayon one year and miss honey another…..and then……oh its crazy. The drive to and from school is always fun….spot the teacher in their world book day costume! Im with you. I would like to see some costumes being recyled in the school so that children (and teachers) can choose a costume and then return it,….all for free. That makes sense to me but until then amazon it is! Lovely post!

    1. I did feel for the teachers having to dress up. I love that you have found a way to get a onsie on. Recycling the costumes is an awesome idea. #DreamTeam

  6. I love the idea of world book day but agree, the meaning has been lost behind another excuse to dress up and make other people money. i think it’s a shame because there are so many ways to encourage reading in children. #dreamteam

    1. I will say that they did have some great activities organised at school too, but the costumes are a pain. Thanks for joining up with the #DreamTeam

  7. our school doesn’t do this, which i find a bit disappointing but am also grateful not to have the extra headache and pressure. Im lucky to have a very avid reader so I’m probably a bit biased, we don’t need the extra motivation or reminder #dreamteam

  8. My other half’s school is not doing the dressing up. And I for one am glad. frankly there are lots of people who cannot afford new outfits every time there is a dressing up day. Even though I can sew and whip up an outfit, it doesn’t seem right. So yes, forget about the dressing up and concentrate on the books. My other half is now going in his pyjamas with all the children doing the same. Much better idea. (and better for the planet than all these tacky outfits #Dreamteam

    1. I like the idea of pjs. At the kids school they did actually spread the activities out over two days with an author coming in the first day so it wasn’t all about dressing up this time thank goodness. Thanks for being on the #DreamTeam

    1. I just got a parentmail to tell me that my twins have to wear red on Friday now for comic relief…. Im over the edge lol! Thanks for joining us on the #DreamTeam

  9. Haha! Kirsty this was a proper rant… love it. We love books, and have been very lucky that little button adores them too. So world book day or not, theres books coming out of our ears. I lIke how some schools are able to get authors in, and dont find the dress up Too tricky At the moment as she enjoys it. Though on the flip side – £15 a COSTUME could be better spent on books. Thanks for being a fab #dreamteam host xx

    1. We did have a poet at the school this year which was great and they actually spread the activities over two days which I really loved so it wasn’t all about what costume you were wearing. #DreamTeam

  10. This hasn’t caught on in ireland yet. well maybe in some schools but not in our hometown and definitely not on a national level as it is in britain. and like you i am relieved because the thoughts of having to make a costume fills me with dread! it was bad enough at halloween because the the underlying theme was care for the environment so the entire costume had to be made from recyclable materials. WHAT A HEADACHE! I TOTALLY GET YOUR POINT OF VIEW. I CAN SEE HOW THE DRESSING UP HAS TAKEN OVER AND AWAY FROM THE ACTUAL READING OF BOOKS WHERE THE CHILDREN ARE CONCERNED. AND I SUSPECT THAT YOU WILL HAVE MANY PARENTS AGREEING WITH YOU HERE! #DREAMTEAM

    1. They didn’t do it at my kids school until last year and I was thrilled, but now here it is ugh!! Although I will say that I loved the activities that the school had organised around reading. They were great. It is just the costume bit that gets me!

  11. I’ll be honest, i would order costumes also! It is such a time consuming thing, and you’re right that the focus is on the clothes and not on the books. #DreamTeam

  12. Pingback: 9 Easy World Book Day Costumes Last Minute - Navigating Baby

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