World Book Day is more than just a fad

children can pick one of 10 books for free with their Book Tokens given out as part of World Book Day

children can pick one of 10 books for free with their Book Tokens given out as part of World Book Day

Since it began 19 years ago World Book Day has instilled panic in parents with last minute costume requests in the first week of March.

The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.

The UNESCO initiative will see schools receive packs of Book Tokens and age-ranged World Book Day resource packs full of ideas, activities, display material and information about how to get involved.

But in a survey of 2,000 parents carried out by ChannelMum, 41% admitted that preparing for the day, which sees pupils across the globe dress up as their favourite book character, was “very stressful”.

The event also seems to bring out a competitive edge with 75 per cent of parents surveyed saying they knew mums or dads who dressed their child up as a character in a book to impress others, despite their child not having read the book.

Still, behind this panic and parenting one-upmanship, there’s a much more serious monetary side to the event.

This year’s World Book Day – March 3 – is expected to boost the UK economy by a huge £112 million but not because we’re buying more books but because of the costumes. The expected expenditure for each child’s outfit is around £16.

Overall, 44% of mums make their own costumes, but one in 20 schools and nurseries have gone as far as to ban home-made costumes – over health and safety fears.

To get round this, a further 25% of parents have customised shop-bought outfits – to make their child’s version look more individual.

However, behind the expense is the real message of World Book Day – instilling a love of reading in our children which will stay with them for life. Here at 650hours we’re all avid readers and, surprising as it may seem for a digital marketing agency, we’re big advocates of the physical book as well as the use of an electronic reader like a Kindle or Nook.

There’s also some serious health benefits to reading. Studies show that it can increase our emotional intelligence as we understand a range of perspectives and motivations. There is some evidence that mental stimulation is one of the factors that can delay the onset of dementia and reading is among the activities that can help to keep the brain active.

Research also suggests that reading for 30 minutes a week increases health and wellbeing. Reading for pleasure has been found to improve our confidence and self-esteem, providing the grounding we need to pursue our goals and make life decisions. It can also aid our sleep and reduce feelings of loneliness.

To the onlooker, reading can appear to be a solitary and passive activity. But the simple act of picking up a book can do us a world of good.

What’s your favourite novel? Or your favourite author? Let us know in the comments. If you want a list of suggested reads, why not check out The Independent’s 40 novels you should read list? Or check out if you can match these young readers in the Guardian Quiz.

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