This Thursday marks the 27th World Book Day in the UK, an annual celebration of books and reading.

For many children, the event is a chance to wear costumes to replicate their favourite book characters, but for others, it’s the only chance they have to own a book.

According to the National Literacy Trust, one in five children aged between five and eight don’t have a book of their own at home. The cost-of-living crisis has caused a 1.9 percent increase in the number of children in the same age bracket who don’t own a book – the highest it has been since 2019.

Cassie Chadderton, CEO of World Book Day, says: “With fewer children and their families enjoying reading, it is vital we reach more children than ever, so that every child can benefit from the improved life chances that reading for pleasure brings. Our aim for World Book Day 2024 is to bring the fun of reading to more children, to celebrate their choices and encourage everyone to Read Their Way. Encouraging children to love reading for pleasure is our charity’s mission.”

World Book Day aims to help children, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, to form a life-long habit of reading for pleasure. Each year, school children receive a £1/€1.50 book token to exchange for a book, eliminating financial barriers to reading, and this year, there are 15 books to choose from, catering to all reading levels.

Caryl Hart, a Sheffield-based children’s author, says: “World Book Day is not just about dressing up. It’s about having fun with books and establishing a love of reading. Studies show that children who read for pleasure do better at school and have more career choices as adults – so showing our children how much we value books is vital.”

The books on offer this year include Creepy Creations by Jennifer Killick, Can You Get Jellyfish in Space? by Dr Sheila Kanani and Dinosaur Club: On the Trail of the T.rex by Jane Clarke.

Children’s author, Jane Clarke, who’s latest collection of books are based on a dinosaur club, spoke of what it means to be selected to write a World Book Day book.

Cathy Cassidy, a best-selling children’s author of titles such as Cherry Crush and Summer’s Dream, spoke about why World Book Day matters to her. “I didn’t own a book of my own until I was twelve – my family just didn’t have the money.

Image credit: Cathy Cassidy

“World Book Day is a chance to celebrate the awesomeness of books and reading. Of course, those things are awesome every day of the year, but having one day where schools and families across the UK celebrate is pretty cool.”

Cathy has previously been asked to write one of the little World Book Day books, and for several years took part in the Biggest Book Show on Earth. She says: “These were roadshow events organised by the World Book Day organisation where hundreds of schools would bring students along to a big venue to see five or six authors talk about books. It brought the fun, magic, and drama of books to just about every corner of the country and it was fun to perform to such big audiences. I’ve just had an email from a reader who is dressing up as me for World Book Day!”

How is Sheffield celebrating World Book Day?

World Book Day celebrations across Sheffield have already begun, with retailers across the city stocking their shelves with £1 books, including independent bookshops Rhyme & Reason on Ecclesall Road, and La Biblioteka, which is located on Eyre Street near the city centre.

Kat Mills, a Sheffield parent, says: “World Book Day is fantastic for my children. It’s about more than just a book, it’s a day that allows them to express themselves through costume.”

The University of Sheffield Residence Life are marking World Book Day with a free book exchange to encourage sustainability within the book industry. Greg Hewitt, Student Engagement & Development Coordinator, says: “If we can encourage staff and students to swap and exchange books, we can help to do our bit to address issues such as unread books in landfill.”

Schools across South Yorkshire are also preparing for their World Book Day Celebrations.

Archdale School

One parent of a child at Archdale Specialist school says: “This year, the school is having a sea themed day, followed by a mad hatter’s tea party. My boys love it because they have their favourite story read and they get to have cake at the coffee morning.”

Doncaster School for the Deaf

Image credit: Doncaster School for the Deaf World Book Day 2021 celebrations

Steph Fogg, an English teacher at Doncaster School for the Deaf, says: “World book day is really important as it helps to foster a love of reading. For many of our students, reading can be challenging but World Book Day helps to bring the fun and pleasure back into it.

“It is wonderful to have dedicated time devoted to the enjoyment of reading and it is a great opportunity for adults to share some of their favourite books with our students in the hope that we can broaden their reading horizons.”

Maltby Lilly Hall Academy

Mr Richard Pease, principal at Maltby Lilly Hall Academy, says: “World Book Day is an integral part of raising the profile of reading engagement with children. Not only does it bring new texts and authors to light, but it brings to life the joy of reading and how the imagination can inspire new worlds and possibilities.

“The day often involves engagement with authors, discussing how they create characters and where their inspiration comes from, this ignites a passion for writing and reading in children, both in schools and encouraging reading for pleasure at home. World Book Day is crucial in not just raising the importance of reading as a lifelong skill, but also highlighting the enjoyment and empowerment it brings.”

Athelstan Primary School

Daisy Johnson, English Lead at Athelstan Primary School, says: “As a school, we go for costumes and a day off timetable to celebrate reading. Our children will tune into some of the live lesson resources provided by the BBC and Scholastic, as well as having down-time to read and talk about their books, or even create books of their own.

“However, World Book Day isn’t a stand-alone event. Reading for Pleasure is already a big focus in our school; we have dedicated Reading for Pleasure sessions weekly where we share new reading with children, work on our reading aloud or memorising poems, and generally celebrate books of all kinds. World Book Day is amazing, but a costume doesn’t make a reader.”

Visit the World Book Day website for more information about World Book Day and to see the full list of £1 books and stockists.