Parents around the country this morning faced the annual challenge of finding book character costumes for their offspring to wear to school on World Book Day. Commuters will have been entertained spotting all kinds of familiar figures; Harry Potter with his trade mark scar, the Worst Witch, the Gruffalo, Horrid Henry, you name it!
World Book Day [this year on 3 March] is a compelling celebration of books and reading which is recognised by UNESCO and is marked in 100 countries worldwide. It is a wonderful reminder to celebrate all that books bring us and what a source of great pleasure, and fun, they are to us and young readers.
But they are also much, much more than that: reading for pleasure is now acknowledged as a major indicator in how well children do at school and how well-adjusted they are in adulthood.
Reading for pleasure during childhood has been identified as having long term benefits tracked into adulthood, such as enhancing vocabulary levels 30 years later.
Reading impacts on attainment in other areas too. For example, studies have found that children of all backgrounds who were read to regularly by their parents at age 5 performed better in maths, vocabulary and spelling at age 16 than those who were not read to.
The benefits of reading with children can be witnessed in even very young children: those who are read to 3-5 days a week (compared to 2 or less) often have a reading age six months older than their peers at age 5 or 6. Those who are read to 6-7 days a week can have a reading age 12 months older than their peers.
Though reading isn't a competition, it's known that children who are competent readers tend to read most and enjoy reading, and therefore reap the benefits throughout their lives.
This is why we at BookTrust are keen to make sure as many children as possible get to read competently, so they can reap the substantial, life-changing benefits of reading for pleasure. That's also why we stress that it's never too early to begin reading with your baby or toddler, exposing them to vocabulary and reading patterns, putting the reading habit in place at a young age.
The great news is that reading with children is now even more fun than ever, as the choices and types of children's books grow. There really is a book out there for everyone. Children and parents need no longer be constrained by notions of 'book worthiness'. Classics are great for some children, but others prefer a different-not a 'lesser'-kind of read. This might be a graphic novel, a book on sport, an illustrated science book or an angst ridden teen novel. It's the reading that counts.
This is one reason why we are so pleased to manage the Blue Peter Book Awards 2016, a stellar champion of children's books where children are the judges. They get to pick a Best Book with Facts as well as a Best Story and have heated discussions in their classrooms and libraries over which title they really feel should be crowned a Blue Peter winner. The Blue Peter book award ceremony takes place live on the show on World Book Day, with Children's Laureate Chris Riddell on stage.
As part of World Book Day each child is given a £1 voucher for a special World Book Day title. Over 14 million vouchers are distributed and thanks to National Book Tokens, booksellers and publishers, these can be redeemed in bookshops across the country. The books include a fantastic mix to suit anyone, including a Star Wars title and an exclusive young adult fiction title from Queen of Teen James Dawson, among a total of eleven popular books.
Tokens can be used to buy the £1 books or can be put towards any title of their choice at participating bookshops between February 29 and March 27.
So, mums and dads, finding those character costumes might be a bit of a challenge, but it's all in a good cause. Read with your babies, get the little ones reading and they'll reap the benefits for the rest of their lives!
The 2016 World Book Day £1 books in full: -
Kipper's Visitor by Mick Inkpen (Hodder Children's Books)
Supertato: Hap-pea Ever After by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet (Simon & Schuster Children's Books)
Daisy and the Trouble With Jack by Kes Gray & Nick Sharratt (Red Fox)
The Great Mouse Plot by Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (Puffin)
Welcome to the World of Norm by Jonathan Meres (Orchard)
Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space by Cavan Scott (Egmont)
The Boy Who Could Do What He Liked by David Baddiel (HarperCollins)
Harper and the Sea of Secrets by Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson (Scholastic)
Spot the Difference by James Dawson (Hot Key)
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell (Macmillan Children's Books)
Ireland only: One Good Turn by Brian Gallagher (O'Brien Press)