Do Books Still Matter?

Today is World Book Day and this morning it seemed everywhere I looked there were children dressed up as their favourite characters from stories. But that presents an interesting question, do books still matter?

I tend to groan when we get themed dressing up notes in the school bags, as I’m not particularly creative or when I am, my mind creates an image that my skills cannot deliver, so we tend to be a little disappointed. However, once we had steered the children away from their favourite movie characters such as Elsa and Iron Man I decided to be more positive.

My 5 year old daughter went as the snow queen from Narnia (turned the Elsa dress inside out, which felt good in itself). We added talc, gel and sparkling spray to her hair, a fluffy scarf and I felt proud we’d avoided her being a Disney princess. My son went as Thing 1 from The Cat in the Hat, thanks to a friend and her hand me down shirts and chopped off tights. He and his best friend both had blue wigs that were “Katie Perry” style that were a little disturbing (think Crystal Carrington meets Fifth Element at a child pageant) until they were cut and styled to be more thing-like.

Why Have World Book Day?

All of this got me thinking about what it meant – why have world book day?

How have we got from having a piece of paper in the school bag to watching 600 children in random outfits cross the school gates being greeted by the headmaster dressed as Stickman. What’s the point of it all?

I started thinking about books I loved, how books were sacred in our house when I was young, how you never folded pages or bent the backs of books. We had shelves and shelves of read once books. I was given a box set of Famous Five books when I had measles, that I treasured for years. I still have books by my bed but they make me feel guilty about how little I read.

Do Books Still Matter?

One of those is “How to say no without feeling guilty” the irony that it makes me feel guilty as I haven’t yet read it, is not lost on me. I need to move it. I then thought about how my children view books, how bedtime stories encourage and help their learning to read and write and how we read or take in stories in the age of social media, kindle and audio books.

Books Across The Generations

Books span generations and stories that you read are there for your interpretation. In a book the story is shaped by your imagination and your world. What you take from a book may leave you with very different pictures than someone else who’s read the same book.

We have an exercise in one of our courses, where you ask people to think about what they see when you say “the cat sat on the mat”. Some will see a black cat on a brown mat, others a tortoiseshell cat on a green mat. What it shows is how people think differently and we all have different views. This, I believe is also true of books. The difference between a book and a film among other things, is that when you watch a film the picture is already there and the visuals are created for you, so you see the same story, but you often get other sensory effects that make the film as enjoyable. To me, books provide peace and a method to how we take in information. In theory, I would love to be in a world with less technology and more books.

Books And Technology In Harmony

However, over the course of the last few days we have used the internet to search about the outfits for Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat, we watched the mini film of the book on youtube as we didn’t own a hard copy.

We used whatsapp for my son and his friend to communicate what they were wearing and how, I heard lots of laughter. I looked at our old CS Lewis books in the bookshelf and Narnia outfits online, thank you Tilda Swinton. This morning we Face-timed ‘granny’, while she ate her breakfast and freaked her out on two accounts, the kids’ outfits and a piece of technology she’d never used “this is wonderful darling, we should try this again”. In short World Book Day had us looking at far more than just a book.

The whole family did the school run this morning and somehow we were early. I said it was down to good team-work and my husband and I tried not to snigger, but I think it’s because we were all engaged in the same plan, so maybe it was teamwork after all.

The Continuing Joy Of Books

When I looked at my kids going into their classes with some of their friends and the inspiration from J R R Tolkien, Dr Zeuss, C S Lewis, JK Rowling and David Walliams, I saw that books still span generations and inspire them and that the technology had helped us research them better. We had fun and communicated with our family and friends via different mediums and technology and dressed up for the day. We had all enjoyed worldbookday and it wasn’t even 9am.

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