Stumping up the cost for a World Book Day costume can put a lot of pressure on a family who are struggling financially, so we asked our School Research and Delivery Lead Luke Bramhall about how schools could celebrate instead

As we approach the celebration of the 22nd World Book Day I salute and acknowledge the purpose and ethos of the charity World Book Day, who for 22 years have had a mission of ensuring that every child across the country is provided with a book that they can have in their house with the mission of ‘encouraging children to explore the pleasures of books and reading’.

While this mission is essential in our society and to be encouraged, we have found many challenges around the delivery of World Book Day within schools through our poverty proofing the school day work.

Parents and children alike have expressed time and time again the pressure that having to provide a dressing up outfit for their child can have on household budgets, and the feeling of dejection and disappointment as some children always seem to miss out on the opportunity for dressing up.

Regularly I go into schools and see pictures of classes of children dressed up in outfits of their favourite book, while two or three children have to suffer the consequences of not having an outfit and just wearing their school uniform.

This would be fine if I didn’t already know the stories behind these pictures, I have heard them from the mouths of children:

"My parents are struggling with money"

"My mum didn’t have time"

"We didn’t get enough notice"

"I think that my parents forgot"

And parents finding the pressure too much with parents saying that they aren’t going to send their children in on World Book Day as it costs too much money – and let’s be honest which parent really wants to send their child to school in uniform on a World Book Day where most of the children are dressed up.

It's not just about dressing up

While World Book Day should be an essential part of school life and celebrated in all its forms, we have to move away from the idea that world book day is all about dressing up.

I know some children really enjoy this, and moreover I know that some teachers really enjoy it, but we have to look at the benefits of dressing up, and the negative impact this can have on some of our most disadvantaged children.

What can schools do instead of dressing up for World Book Day?

The solution can be simple, with many schools moving away from the dressing up ideas:

  • Some schools have created outfits or head dresses during the week leading up to World Book Day and this is what pupils will wear on the big day.

  • Some schools decorate masks

  • Others don’t do any dressing up but still spend World Book Day focusing on stories, reading and books (in line with the mission of World Book Day).

  • Some schools have teamed up with local fancy dress shops and have a large rail so that children can either bring their own or use one of the dressing up outfits provided at school.

  • Some schools have just asked teachers to dress up (although ensure these are provided by the school – some teaching staff may also be struggling financially).

"Let’s think about the impact of poverty on World Book Day"

We have to ensure that those children who do not have the money for dressing up outfits are not singled out, and some simple changes can eliminate another barrier that children with less financial backing can have in school.

The result of some of these changes has on many occasions been incredibly positive with some head teachers being thanked by parents for re-thinking how World Book Day has been carried out.

So let’s think about the impact of poverty on World Book Day, and the steps we can make within school to ensure that no child is missing out, and every child has equal access to the opportunity that World Book Day presents.

For more information on ideas and opportunities for World Book Day then please do get in contact with us at Children North East [email protected]

Check out the brilliant resources on the World Book Day website: