Children of all ages are getting ready for World Book Day by selecting their favourite books and creating costumes to bring beloved characters from treasured stories to life.
Whether it's through a book swap, a reading challenge or dressing up as a favourite character, the aim of World Book Day is to inspire children to develop a love of reading that will last a lifetime.
What is World Book Day?
On this day, schools, libraries and bookshops hold special events and activities to encourage reading and celebrate the joy of books.
The event is celebrated on the first Thursday of March in the UK and Ireland and aims to promote reading and publishing.
The event was first established in 1995 by Unesco as a way to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading.
On World Book Day, people are encouraged to celebrate books and reading by participating in various activities such as reading challenges, book fairs, author talks and book giveaways.
The day is also an opportunity to promote literacy and access to books for people around the world.
Various schools mark the day with a week full of events to encourage the children to take part and to share their favourite books.
Bringing the characters to life
Some schools have a dress-up day in which children swap their school uniform for costumes — with teachers getting in on the fun, too.
North Ealing primary school also does a book parade, where children across all years can find out who shares a passion for their favourite book.
Parents have the not-so-easy task of finding a suitable costume to help their children embody their favourite characters.
Stores stock up on some of the more popular characters, including:
Harry Potter: The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Many children choose to dress up as Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley or other characters from the series.
The Cat in the Hat: The Cat in the Hat is a classic book character created by Dr Seuss. The costume is simple, with a red-and-white striped hat and a black cat suit.
Alice in Wonderland: Alice in Wonderland is a beloved book by Lewis Carroll. The costume often includes a blue dress with a white apron and a black headband.
Where's Wally?: Where's Wally?, also known as Where's Waldo?, is a children's book series created by British illustrator Martin Handford. The costume features a red-and-white striped shirt, a matching hat and round glasses.
Matilda: Matilda is a book character created by Roald Dahl, becoming more popular this year with the release of the Matilda musical. The costume includes a blue dress, a red ribbon and a stack of books.
Peter Pan: Peter Pan is a classic book character created by JM Barrie. The costume includes a green tunic, brown trousers and a pointed green hat.
The Gruffalo: The Gruffalo is a popular character created by Julia Donaldson. The costume includes a brown, furry suit, a pair of horns and a pair of big, yellow eyes.
Some characters cannot usually be found in stores, meaning parents need to dig deep into their wells of creativity to make their own to help their child bring their favourite book characters to life.
UAE celebrates the month of reading
In the UAE, celebrations last a little longer, as March is a month dedicated to reading.
Amity International School Abu Dhabi celebrates with a number of events including the bucket list reading challenge, pioneered by Marina Koniotou, the school’s librarian.
She said: “This [challenge] gives students the opportunity to expand their repertoire of book genres. We saw how it has engaged reluctant readers as they find pleasure in graphic novels and finally find what they like to read.”
Amity also runs an Around the World Reading Challenge, in which children collect 500 reading miles for every 10 minutes they spend on reading. They can then find out how far around the world their reading has taken them.
Ms Koniotou spoke to The National about tying the event with the UAE’s national agenda, which focuses this year on digital transformation and embedding reading as a lifestyle habit.
With technological advances, the school is focused on teaching pupils to be digitally savvy in gaining access to, citing and evaluating information.
In addition, it highlights the use of the e-book catalogue, which ends the need to carry physical books.
Creativity and design
In Dubai’s Uptown International School, the creativity goes a step further.
Emma Jones, deputy head of primary; Susane Joseph, librarian; and Stacey Keeling, assistant head of secondary, came up with some creative ideas that allows every teacher or senior leader to decorate their classroom or office door to resemble the cover of a book.
This activity not only promotes a sense of fun and competition but also exposes pupils to books they may not have encountered before. This, in turn, sparks conversations, leading to the discovery of new books.
To encourage pupils to take a book with them wherever they go, the school is also hosting a photography contest.
For the love of reading
Sally Flowers, head teacher at the London's North Ealing Primary school, sees World Book Day as an opportunity to encourage pupils’ love of reading.
The school starts the week-long celebrations with an assembly to promote the power of reading and encourage children to become lifelong readers, highlighting the impact of reading on the children’s and adult’s lives.
Other activities include a book swap, in which children swap their preloved books for others from their peers, introducing them to new adventures.
Ms Flowers said: “One of the students’ favourite event is the 'Round Robin Reading' session. where teachers read a book across each class. The class teacher chooses a book, and the teachers rotate and pick up the book where the previous teacher left off”.
The school also invites a local author — Nathaniel N Tomlinson — who has recently written a new book and is running a workshop on writing a books, including character description work for older children.
Uniting in Compassion
The recent deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria are on everyone’s minds. the British International School in Riyadh will be hosting a preloved book sale in which pupils donate books to sell, with all proceeds going towards relief work.
The school also has a “Blind Date with a Book” event in which pupils pick a book based solely on the first sentence of the work and its genre. They also recommend books to their peers in the “Creation Station” using the same approach.
Natalie Ward, head of marketing and digital communication at the school, told The National that the school has a plush campfire to make the space cozy for pupils who read a storybook about how various forest animals come together and create their own library.
“This has been used as a learning opportunity to discuss how everyone contributes to making our library a community space, but also that we must all respect it as well,” she said. “Storytime has proven successful and we will continue reading storybooks during class visits to the library encouraging students to select and read books to their classmates, and perhaps, at a later stage, to younger students as well.”
Strikes shift celebrations in England
Some teachers will be on strike in England on World Book Day, and some schools will be closed. But the celebrations will not stop as parents will no doubt be taking over and making the day their own.