Monday, 7 March 2016

World Book Day: Choosing Stories

If you managed to escape from Addy Farmer's web of distraction post from last week, you might have noticed the passing of World Book Day on Thursday. If you weren't aware of it being WBD, you might have noticed a strange parade of children dressed up as recognisable (or not) book characters streaming towards the school gates.

On the assumption that if you are reading this blog then you are likely a writer, you are one of two things:

1. Not yet published, and feeling fresh-faced and youthful after devoting some of your time this week to reading, writing and looking forward to a calm career as an author.
2. Published, and absolutely exhausted after a week spent in five different schools surrounded by boundless enthusiasm and inexhaustible mischief.

Likely exhaustion level by the end of World Book Day week

Being in Camp One myself, I often respond to a call for arms from my local Indie to help out with book sales at local school events, simply because there are so many at this time of year and quite frankly I love helping out (although it should be said that I'm on leave from work at the moment and therefore I made the call for stuff-to-do rather than it being the other way around). So on Tuesday I'll be driving from one school to another, always hoping that each will be as wonderfully frantic as the last.

When we get to each school, we will set up tables and stands and decorate them hurriedly with as wide a variety of titles as possible, eager not to topple either the books or ourselves. Then we will rush around madly as children in various guises rush around even more madly, looking for their favourites, discussing the best characters and, with any luck, ready to have something new recommended to them. 

It all feels rather like playing at being an adult, because all I can generally think about is the book fairs that used to come to my school, and how I used to feel perusing the endless shelves. In all likelihood there were only a couple of bookcases on wheels with a handful of books clinging to them, but I always felt somewhat dwarfed by the whole thing. 

A typical 1980s school book fair. Probably.

I can't remember for the life of me what made me select one book over another (unless it had a picture of somebody being eaten on the front - I had a particular proclivity for books containing stories of man eaters). But I do remember clutching my pound coins in my rapidly-sweating fist and being absorbed by the opportunity to choose whatever I wanted. (God love anyone who tried to rip a book on cannibalism out of my nine-year old hands.)

This love of choosing a story wasn't restricted to book fairs, of course, it was also relentlessly exercised in libraries and at home, as well as in book shops the day before we headed on our summer holidays. 

At the time, I don't think there was anybody to help me decide on what to choose. Sometimes that worked out well and landed me with an entirely age-inappropriate love of cannibalism stories. 

But I also remember starting an awful lot of books only to discard them very quickly. (Including that time somebody tried to make me read Stephen King aged eleven. I retreated into the many worlds of Enid Blyton for a full year after that.) We certainly didn't have a school librarian, although there were smatterings of books in most classrooms.

Not at all odd to pivot between stories about teddy bears to stories about people losing limbs  to sharks. Not at all.

Luckily, at the schools I'll be heading to tomorrow, there will be book shop staff who know exactly what they're talking about, who know how to open up a child to new kinds of stories without breaking their love for their old favourites. There will be school librarians and teachers, who also know exactly what they're talking about, who know the children and what works for them and what doesn't. On top of which, they'll all have spent at least part of the day with an author. All four of those groups of adults will be there to achieve one thing: to encourage a love of stories.  
And that, for me, is the joy of World Book Day.


  1. I have such happy memories of book fairs - it's where I met Little Old Mrs Pepperpot.

    1. I confess I hadn't heard of Little Old Mrs Pepperpot! I think it's where I met Milly Molly Mandy. And Michael Rosen.

  2. When did World Book Day start? It feels like we've been doing it forever! Such an evocative post! Thank you. We've missed you on the blog.

    1. In the mid 90s I think? Though I also believe we celebrate it on a different day to the rest of the world. Because we're British and we like to mess with things.

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  4. What a lovely lovely post, Jo! Thanksyou!

  5. I used to run a weekly bookshop when I was teaching in Derbyshire. I loved it. Loved picking books for the shop, loved talking about books with the kids. We had a savings club so they could save towards a book and they got very excited when they'd saved enough. Happy times.


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