Today is World Book Day, a phrase which strikes fear and dread into the hearts of some parents. The costume ‘one-upmanship’ and desperate bids to get the children to dress up as something other than a Disney character can be bloody exhausting. And the grandparents don’t get it because, luckily (and smugly), World Book Day was a thing when we were small. Which made me wonder, what would I have dressed up as if we did?
My eldest daughter is 7-years old, this is her 3rd World Book Day. The first year, she chose Cinderella and in true style of an insecure first-time parent, I asked her to make sure the teachers knew it was after the Charles Perrault classic fairy tale, not blasted Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. But she had already zoned me out as I was explaining the origins of the Disney movie and happily carried on with her day.
I was stupid to worry. Despite the onslaught of Disney identikit princesses and happy ever-afters, she still loves to consume proper books. Last year she chose to go as Slinky Malinki, our favourite poem at the time. This year, is my youngest’s first World Book Day and both girls have chosen to dress up as a different Rainbow Fairy, Daisy Meadow’s epic series of cutesy but powerful magical creatures.
It’s easy to slate today’s generation and their appetite for pop culture with an overwhelming high turnover of stories and topics but was it really that different in the late 70s and 80s when I was at primary school? Whilst we didn’t have the vast choice via easy-access technology such as tablets, we still sought to lose ourselves for hours on end in comics and magazines, such as Look-in or Jackie which had articles on Wham! and picture stories about boyfriend dilemmas. Children’s television was flourishing with cartoons getting more sophisticated in the form of serialised dramas such as Ulysees 31 or G-Force, even Dogtanian took us through basic French history canine-style. It was easy to spend unhealthy amounts of time in front of the box and the dangers weren’t fully realised. But I still loved proper books, as well as magazines and cartoons, the same way as my girls do now.
Whilst scrambling around for the girls’ costumes, asking people to lend items for their bespoke fairy, it dawned on me who I most likely would have dressed up as when I was 7 years old. I was an Enid Blyton fanatic, particularly the woodland fairy stories, so I most likely would have chosen Silky from the Faraway Tree. Not that much different from a Rainbow Fairy at all.
So if you’re a parent struggling to encourage your child to find more inspiration in literary characters rather than ones from television, don’t panic. Keep reading with them, to them and the rest will follow.