Thank the gods and little fishes – it’s World Book Day 2014!
What a marvellous idea, don’t you think? A day devoted entirely to the celebration, promotion and enjoyment of reading and books and stories. A day when children can go to school dressed as their favourite storybook character and the whole day is storytime (well – not really. But you know what I mean.) A day when children like me (or – er. Children like I was, when I was a child. Shut up!) come into their own and get to revel in their book-nerdiness. A day, in short, when I wish I could be little again so I could go to school and enjoy the day properly. It’s not so much fun when you’re dressing up by yourself. And when you’re a grown-up.
Part of the sheer brilliance of World Book Day is the fact that every child is given a book token to the value of €1.50 – which will, hopefully, be spent in local bookshops! – and, every year, a book is written specially for the celebration. This year, in Ireland, that book is Mary Arrigan’s ‘The Milo Adventures’, which looks like a fantastic read. The token can actually be exchanged for one of eight books which are specially priced for the day, or as part payment for a more expensive book, and – either way – it’s a wonderful gift to every young reader in the country. Amazingly, though, according to the World Book Day website, three out of ten children in Ireland don’t own a book, and that makes me sad. Every child should have access to books. Every child should be encouraged to read, and think, and dream, and write their own stories. Every child should be supported in their desire to engage with books. World Book Day is such a wonderful way to start that process, and I wish it had been around when I was little.
Not that I could have been any book-ier. But I would have loved it, all the same.
Ireland is a great country in which to be a young reader. We have the amazing CBI, or Children’s Books Ireland, which ceaselessly advocates for children’s books and quality writing for youngsters, and we have the office of Laureate na n-Óg whose job it is to promote and encourage children’s books, all the way up from picture books for the earliest readers to wonderful tales for teens (and ‘teens at heart’.) As a country, Ireland is famed for the quality of its literature and for the cultural value placed upon stories and storytelling, and we are blessed with an abundance of storytellers, for all ages. I love that the entire month of March is dedicated to the promotion of books and reading, focusing on today’s celebration (thanks to the Booksellers’ Association), and as a writer, reader and former bookseller I am extremely excited at the thought that, all over the country, people will be sitting down to read today – perhaps people who don’t ordinarily read – and I really hope that they’ll catch the story bug. Nothing has given me more joy in life than my love for words, and I’m excited at the idea that today – perhaps right now – a child somewhere is feeling that joy, the buzzing happiness that comes with being caught up in a story, the total immersion in a world of their own imagining.
Opening up a mind to the endless possibilities of story gives access to landscapes which go on forever, skies as wide as imagination, worlds upon worlds full of dreams. It truly is, as far as I’m concerned, the best and most important part of a child’s education. If a child is encouraged to read, they’re encouraged to think, and if they’re encouraged to think they’ll be curious, and if they’re curious they’ll learn. If they learn, they’ll bring beauty and joy to their world as they grow, and they’ll pass on that broad-based love of life and words and ideas to the generations that come after them. There is a story for every child, and a child for every story – and it’s up to us as adults to bring the two together.
Oh, World Book Day! How I love you.
Go and read a book today. Go on. Particularly if you don’t normally make the time to read. Treat yourself today in honour of World Book Day and, if there’s a young person in your life, please do treat them, too. Read to them, if that’s appropriate. Show them how much you love the words, and help them to love ’em too.
In my humble opinion, there’s no bigger favour you can do for a younger person, and no greater gift you can give.