World Book Day!
I should be enthused, happy, excited even. Shouldn’t I?
And I am, I really am. I love books, and have loved them since I can remember.
I have in front of me now one of my prized childhood possessions; ‘My Boy-Blue Book of Nursery Rhymes’, a cloth book distributed by Edwyn A Birks Ltd ‘Washable and Babyproof’. (Not sure the title would withstand modern sensibilities. Hints of pornography and male hierarchy).
World Book Day doesn’t often impinge on my consciousness these days. It is aimed at children and my daughter is at University and my son doesn’t really see the point of books – though he reads online material, including this blog for some reason – Hi!
But – you knew that was coming right? – but, it has never really worked for me. It is only 25 years old and therefore wasn’t around when I was young. It was about fifteen years ago I became aware of it when my daughters’ school started making demands about dressing up that I noticed it. And not in a good way. I think the basic idea is sound, but like many of these charitable good ideas, ‘numbers’ get a momentum of their own which makes people forget what the original idea is about.
I was in our library yesterday. Not that the council allows anyone to call it a library, it is a ‘community hub’ and the reference section was massacred a few years ago and computers replaced most of the bookshelves. Much of the remaining space was commandeered by the council workers dealing with council tax, refuse, housing problems etc when the council closed a building next door for some arcane plan some years ago which has yet to materialise.
There remain however, some books and a couple of people who work with them. What the status of these people is I’m not exactly sure as the council attempted to remove all trained librarians as an unnecessary expense. They do run ‘events’ for kids however and yesterday I saw them wandering around bearing piles of odd clothes and wearing flamboyant hats.
‘World Book Day’ I was told when they saw my eyebrows.
Apparently this must be a ‘fun’ ‘event’ ( as defined by whom?) which seems to have as little to do with reading a book as possible. All the great literature, all the fun books, all those thrilling reads and THIS is what the supporters of the fun of reading come up with? Dressing up, running around and not concentrating, frankly one of the prerequisites of reading something?
It didn’t particularly bother me at the time. It isn’t the first time I have had this curmudgeonly thought. But after I left the hub/library thingy, I began to fret about my plan to be more human and wondered if I should lighten up, or if anyone else shared my concerns.
I am not alone.
First thing I found on my internet search was Marianne Levy’s piece in the ‘i’ online. It echoed my feelings – good idea, but… All that money spent on crap disposable costumes, I thought we were avoiding rampant consumerism that burned resources and screwed up ecosystems?
Marianne’s piece does have a positive side, how to reclaim the day for reading rather than a fancy dress party. But even here there are problems. A children’s author interviewed about what we could do, suggested refreshing reading corners in classes (good idea) and making posters and decorations of children’s favourite characters to give them ‘ownership. Possibly great for art skills, and group interaction, but here’s a whacky idea:
to encourage reading, how about setting aside some time on World Book Day to, oh I don’t know…read a book? In class? Together? Then maybe talk about it and possibly write a story of their own?
On with the party!