Are parents missing the point of World Book Day?

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Parents are apparently prioritising World Book Day costumes over, well, books. [Photo: Getty]

Parents are likely investing more time and money on their child’s World Book Day costume than they do on, well, books – with some splashing out as much as £100 for an outfit.

Schoolchildren around the UK are encouraged to dress up today to celebrate their favourite fictional character, in order to mark World Book Day.

But new research suggests parents are missing the point of the important day, which is “a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading”, according to the World Book Day charity’s website.

Over half (61%)  say they feel other parents go “all out” in a bid to impress others on social media, while almost the same number (60%) agree the annual celebration of reading is more about the costumes than the books themselves.

Mothers and fathers invest heavily in their child’s costume, with one in fifty spending as much as £100, a poll has found.

Yet the average household spent just £74.60 last year on items for recreation and culture – which includes novels – according to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

READ MORE: DIY World Book Day costume ideas

What’s more, while 46% of parents say they buy their children an outfit for the day, only 36% plan to invest in a novel.

However, it is worth mentioning 15 million schoolchildren around the country are given a book token on World Book Day, which they are able to trade in for one of 12 children’s titles available here.

The poll, commissioned by online auction site eBay, aims to shed light on parents’ priorities with a view to helping them “reconnect” with the true purpose of the day.

“We want to inspire families to reconnect with World Book Day’s meaning so we’ve curated a list of new and used books,” said an eBay spokesperson.

A crisis in child literacy?

Reading is on the decline among children, according to a landmark study conducted by University College London (UCL) last year.

Researchers tracked 11,000 children born in 2000, assessing them at the ages of nine months, three, five, seven, 11 and 14.

Out of this group, it was found an average of just one in ten spent their spare time reading by the time they reached their teenage years: 14% of girls and 7% of boys.

READ MORE: McDonald’s giving out free Roald Dahl books

Gaming and social media were prioritised instead. Both male and female subjects spent their time on social media (an average of one hours and 21 minutes a day).

Meanwhile, 48% of boys said they spent time on video games, with 12% spending more than five hours a day gaming.

Another study, this time from the National Literacy Trust, found just 15% parents read stories to their children every day – despite six in ten agreeing it helps them to read.

How do you get your child into reading?

Just ten minutes of reading with a parent every day could play a “vital role” in developing a child’s love of books, according to Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust.

Parents play a vital role in helping their child develop a love of reading,” Douglas told Yahoo UK.

“Children learn from their parents, so seeing their mums and dads enjoying and valuing books can be a great inspiration.

“Our research shows that encouraging children to develop a love of books and reading can help them to do better at school and to be happier with their lives. And all this can be achieved by finding time to read with your child, no matter what their age, for just 10 minutes a day.”

World Book Day is an opportunity for children around the country to develop their love of reading, and to reap the benefits that come with it, Douglas added.

World Book Day is about celebrating the magic of reading and getting books into children’s hands – two things that we know are crucial for helping children succeed at school and for supporting good mental wellbeing.

“Our research shows that children who took part in World Book Day last year were far more likely to enjoy reading (79% vs 56%) and twice as likely to read outside school on a daily basis (48% vs 24%) than their peers who didn’t take part. “