Do you resent shelling out loads of money for World Book Day costumes?

PUBLISHED: 09:59 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:40 05 March 2019

Ravenswood Primary School in Ipswich celebrates World Book Day 2011 Picture : ALEX FAIRFULL

Ravenswood Primary School in Ipswich celebrates World Book Day 2011 Picture : ALEX FAIRFULL

If you buy the Disney Mary Poppins outfit from the supermarket it will cost around £15 but, wait a minute, World Book Day is surely all about reading, isn’t it?

For the love of books Picture: LJMFor the love of books Picture: LJM

The mission of World Book Day (March 7, 2019) is to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest event of its kind, marked in over 100 countries all over the world.

According “The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books. That’s why we will be sending schools packs of Book Tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs full of ideas and activities, display material and more information about how to get involved in World Book Day.”

I don’t know if you have noticed anything odd about this? That’s right, it doesn’t actually say that children are expected to dress up and go to school in the guise of one of their favourite book characters.

In fact, I have been through the suggestions in the “inspiration” part of the website and can find no mention of wearing a costume. The ideas, you will not be surprised to learn, are largely about reading books.

Of course, dressing up is great fun so I can see why people might wish to give children the opportunity to take on one of those famous literary creations.

But, inevitably, the tendency to dress up as characters has been seized upon as (yet) another retail opportunity and something of a nice little earner, not only for the supermarkets who sell the merchandise but the companies that own the copyrights and promote the “official” costumes.

I was feeling so grumpy about this (and I don’t even have children of school age) that I stomped off to find out more, thus, I imagine, automatically qualifying to wear the Ebenezer Scrooge costume - had there been one.

Viewing the outfits available in a leading supermarket chain earlier this week, I found JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, Roald Dahl’s Miss Trunchball, Disney’s Peter Pan, Tinkerbelle, and Mary Poppins, Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, superheroes and so on and so forth.

Thurston Community College's production of Disney and Cameron Mackintoshs Mary Poppins Jr   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThurston Community College's production of Disney and Cameron Mackintoshs Mary Poppins Jr Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

I was, I confess, rather in awe of the caterpillar costume.

The cost varied with sizes but they seemed to be from £14 up to around £17, which seems a lot for one day’s wear. Unless you have a troupe of younger kids who grow into the costumes over the coming years, the costume could simply go up in the attic with all the other outgrown stuff.

Of course, a parent is not compelled to purchase a costume. It is possible for mums and dads to fashion something suitable but that takes time and with many families having two working parents, time is of the essence. There comes a point where it is just easier to zap out to the superstore and buy something off the shelf:

“You’ve read David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny,” haven’t you, Pandora?”

World Book Day is Thursday, March 7 2019 Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTOWorld Book Day is Thursday, March 7 2019 Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO

A nod of assent and the costume goes in the trolley.

“But I want to be Cinderella!”

There are a lot of parents, however, who cannot afford an outlay of £14. 
The school uniform is a great leveller. And, yes, I know I am rather old fashioned, but I really believe that children should not be subjected to unnecessary pressure because of the clothes they wear. Dressing up without limits for World Book day Seems like a prime opportunity for one-upmanship.

Having said that, most parents do seem keen to construct their own book-related costume. They like to rise to the challenge. After all, there will be children who want to go as a character from a book that does not feature in supermarkets’ World Book Day section.

My six-year-old grandson, although his bedtime reading is Roald Dahl’s Matilda and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter would, I imagine, still rather go to school dressed as a dinosaur. Failing this, give him a wooden spoon, put a colander on his head and call him King Arthur (The Once and Future King).

The stories we love do not always require a role play response. Just loving books should be enough.

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