Saving World Book Day

Shutterstock © Two children reading for World Book Day uplifting short story


In tough times, Helen had to rethink the meaning of the event…

“There’s one more item on the Agenda,” Helen said, glancing at the little group before her. They looked tired and they just wanted to go home. She sympathised. The last few years had been tough for nursery staff.

“It’s World Book Day soon. Any ideas how we should celebrate this year?”

Usually her words would be met with a torrent of suggestions, but today all she got was shrugs.

Mia eventually spoke up. “Some of the mums have mentioned it. Money’s tight and most aren’t in a position to buy dressing-up costumes.”

“But World Book Day’s not about dressing up,” said Helen. “It’s about introducing children to the pleasures of stories and books.

“Yes,” said Mia, “But dressing up’s become so much a thing nowadays. Shop costumes are expensive, especially if there’s more than one child in the family.”

“Make their own?” said Helen.

“Kelsey’s mum’s got two jobs,” said Laura. “She told me she doesn’t have the time or energy to think about a costume.”

“I remember last year,” said Iona. “The better-off kids were wearing shop-bought outfits and the less well-off ones looked embarrassed sitting next to them.”

Helen sighed. “It’s got way out of hand. No child should feel inferior. I suggest we give costumes a miss this year. Let’s all think about it  and work out how to make it a fun day for the children and stress-free for their parents.”

Helen talked to John about it when they sat down with coffee after supper.

“It was different when our three were little. Back then it was all about the books.”

John nodded. “It’s like everything else now, it’s become commercialised.”

“And like other schools and nurseries we got sucked in without realising,” said Helen.

I never thought how much pressure we were putting on the families.

John put his arm around her shoulder. “You’ve a brilliant team. You’ll work it out.”

Helen heard the wind howling outside and snuggled in close to him and relaxed.

“Remember what it was like when the kids were small?” she said. “This was the most frantic time of the day.”

John nodded. “Checking they’d done their homework. Getting them into the bath. Brushing their teeth. Then one of them suddenly remembering they needed six yoghurt pots for tomorrow.”

Helen smiled, remembering. “And finally getting them into bed. All cosy in their pyjamas, snuggling down for a story.”

“I bet I could still do Each Peach Pear Plum by heart,” said John.

Helen immediately sat up.

“That’s it!” she said.

“You want me to recite Each Peach Pear Plum to your nursery class?”

“No, although I’m sure you’d be very good at it. But the best way to enjoy a story is when you’re all snuggled in your PJs and dressing-gown – right?”

“And all the children already have those,” John said, as the penny dropped.

“No extra expense for the families and no stress having to buy or make costumes.”

She put the idea to the rest of the team the next day and waited for their response…

“It’s a brilliant idea.”

All the children will be equal.

“I’ve got some big squishy cushions at home,” said Mia. “I’ll bring them for the children to sit on.”

“I’ll bring some throws.”

“And we could have hot chocolate and marshmallows at snack-time.”

Helen listened and smiled, delighted they’d regained their enthusiasm. She just hoped the parents would be on-board too.

But she needn’t have worried.

“I can’t tell you what a relief it was, knowing we didn’t have to forage around for a dressing-up costume,” Bertie’s mum said when she dropped him off on the day.

The sentiment was repeated many times that morning.

Helen watched her staff interacting with the children, admiring their Frozen pyjamas and Spiderman slippers, being introduced to their teddies. Some were clutching hot-water bottles. As requested, they’d all brought their favourite book. Some were classics – including Each Peach Pear Plum – some were new. Many were tattered and that made Helen smile – they’d been well read and well loved.

After a while everyone settled down while Mia read a story. Mia was a gifted storyteller and she soon had them entranced. Helen could almost see their imaginations taking flight along with the dragon in the story.

As soon as she finished reading, Mia was bombarded with multiple pleas to, “read mine next!”

Helen exhaled a long, contented sigh, remembering what she’d always known. The magic wasn’t in fancy costumes. The magic was in the stories.

Once again, World Book Day was the happiest event in the nursery year.

For World Book Day (March 7) we asked the staff from the University of Dundee’s English department to recommend some of their favourite books. Take a look now!

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.