World Book Day - A Personal Anecdote
Published on 23/02/18
“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done. Then they begin to hope it can be done. Then they see it can be done. Then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (chapter 27, p281)
World Book Day originally started in 1997 as a means to encourage school children in the UK to enjoy and appreciate the pleasure that reading can bring.
For me however, it was the second World Book Day in 1998, which stands out as being the most important. I remember it like it was yesterday; I was 6 years old and standing next to a giant trestle table packed full of books proudly clutching the £1 book token I had just been given in my tiny triumphant fist.
Even at that early age I had already started reading children’s books by the dozen from the local library, so the fact that there was a day entirely devoted to books and reading was, to me anyway, pretty special. And to have a token that I could spend on buying a book that I could keep, well, that was the icing on the cake!
The table filled with books was in one of those iconic ‘big halls’ which is instantly recognisable as being part of a primary school – shiny wooden floors, climbing apparatus pushed against one wall, benches against another and the homely nostalgic smell of freshly cooked fudge tart wafting through the air.
I remember spending ages standing by the display, staring at all of the books on offer and deliberating about which one to pick. I think I’d started to go for something fairly short and illustrated when my Dad stopped me and advised that, as I was starting to read so fast, it might be better for me to pick something a little more advanced than I was used to, instead of a story that I would likely finish in about 20 minutes.
Me being me, it is entirely probable that I may have grumbled at this logic and begrudgingly returned the easier book to the box, but as Dad was funding the other £1.99 of my purchase, I couldn’t complain too much!
After some deliberation, we decided that I would use my book token to put towards buying ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Little did we know it then, but this children’s classic set on the Yorkshire Moors, would quickly become one of my favourite books of all time and the precursor to my lifelong love of Literature.
20 years later, this very same book still sits, slightly tattered, in pride of place on my over-flowing bookcase – a reminder of how it all began.
Since 1997, World Book Day has become bigger and more widely celebrated than ever and children all across the UK are still dressing up as their favourite characters and receiving Book Tokens to put towards (or purchase outright) books of their choice.
We look forward to seeing the ways, big or small, that World Book Day is still changing children’s lives across the UK today.