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World Book Day – We Need a Rest From Fancy Dress


Is it me or does World Book Day come round more than once a year?

World Book Day and Dressing Up

I’m a massive advocate of nurturing a lifelong love of reading. I also like the idea of anything that promotes this. However, the whole dressing up rigmarole that accompanies World Book Day (WBD) often eclipses its aim. All the mums I’ve spoken to seem pretty unanimous in their weariness about this aspect of WBD – “I just need something cheap and easy” is the cry.  

First there’s the process of deciding on the character. This is labour intensive. I listed all the great books my children had read and suggested characters from these. However, every idea was vetoed. Then we had the discussion about why they couldn’t go as film characters. At 11, my eldest just wants to be the same as her friends and dress up as Thing One, Thing Two and Thing Three despite not enjoying the Dr Seuss books.   

In 2020 we managed it x 3 with just the purchase of a bow
Finding the time

Life is busy. I don’t really have much time (and crucially ability) to make three costumes. We try to find stuff at home that can be used and adapted, but that only gets us so far, so I end up having to spend money to complete costumes. That’s another downside; there’s a lot of pressure on time poor parents to throw money at the whole thing.

Also some children hate dressing up. Maria was all set on being Delphie from one of the Darcey Bussell books and then panicked that “the boys would laugh at her for being in a ballerina dress.” I’ve talked her round.

Other things to do on World Book Day

There are umpteen dressing up events at our school throughout the year, perhaps the focus of WBD could be on other activities…

Some ideas

My children have been set a number of reading tasks by school to complete. It’s more interesting than it sounds…

World Book Day
Michael Rosen’s suggestion

One of our favourites, Michael Rosen, got back to me on Twitter and suggested Adopt an author

He says to be imaginative when presenting a book to another class. For example, do ‘freeze frames’, act out a scene, do a mime from a scene from the book while someone narrates, do ‘guess the book’ shows, quizzes, mock interviews with the ‘author’ or a character from the book.

Get in a guest author

The money that would be spent on costumes could contribute towards getting in a guest author. As the late Jonny Zucker said in an article for The Guardian:

…if an author visit goes well, some pupils will get more of a writing confidence-boost in one day than they normally would in a whole term; some will crack how to plot a story and will go off to compose their first magnum opus; and some will discover that writing can actually be fun.

Jonny Zucker
Competitions and games
  • The children at my friend’s daughter’s school are redesigning book covers for a competition. What a lovely activity and something that helps children translate words to pictures.
  • Play consequences – Everyone in class gets the chance to become a contributing author in this traditional parlour game. Perhaps the resulting ‘story’ can then be expanded and edited.   
  • Read part of an unfamiliar text together as a class and then each child writes the rest of the story.  
Get creative

Get them to channel their inner Roald Dahl and make their own version of a Gobblefunk dictionary of descriptive made-up words

Use you library

Get involved with your local library. Many libraries run special events for World Book Day for children of all ages. Keep an eye on your local library’s social media channels and website for details of events. Here are some for Surrey libraries

World Book Day

What was decided

This year, after much deliberation, we’ll have Delphie from Delphie and the Magic Ballet Shoes, the eponymous Matilda and Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.


If it all gets too much just remember the dad who took inspiration from the Argos catalogue…

You might also like:

The Gruffalo Tops the Charts as World Book Day 2024 Approaches

The Summer Reading Challenge

Should Fairy Tales be Banned?

The Benefits of Reading as a Family – guest post


About Author

I’m Fran: wife, mother-of-three and freelance publicist. My love for communicating and writing mirrors my passion for trying to be the best mum I can be. I love good food & wine, Italian culture and football and have a keen interest in personal finance. I also blog over on Epsom & Ewell Families and Habyts, and write sporadically for a number of other sites.


  1. Nikki Parrott on

    I’ve spent the morning trawling the charity shops!! I’ve given up and we will just have to “make do”. Not that Stanley knows this yet

    • It’s such a shame that something that should be so enjoyable seems to have become a hassle for parents and children alike. It’s not like my 3 don’t enjoy reading either. I thought I was being a bit of a grump, but every parent I’ve spoken with feels the same!

  2. Our school ditched fancy dress a few years ago. Since then we have decorated potatoes and wooden spoons as characters. This year it’s ‘book in jar’. I think it’s so much better as the kids can actually do it themselves with a little help rather than parents having to trawl charity shops or amazon!

  3. A local school to me asked children to design t shirts based around their favourite books to wear on the day. They completed their t shirts on the run up to the day in the classroom. Wonderful idea!

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