It’s World Book Day today.
Now in its 21st year, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind and marked in over 100 countries all over the world. The aim is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books – reading books, listening to stories and getting immersed in a fascinating fictional world. Many schools in our community encourage the children to take this one step further and to come to school dressed up as a character from a book they enjoy.
How do you prepare for World Book Day in your family? There are those of us who love planning outfits with our children and making things together, and there are certainly those of us who rely on a last minute Amazon Prime purchase to ensure their little ones are suitably dressed on the day! All are equally valid approaches and of course the kids love the outcome regardless.
In our work at Stripey Stork however we see another perspective. We hear about those families who dread any extra activities at school due to the additional burden it puts on family finances. We hear about those children who don’t even mention World Book Day to their parents as they know the resources just aren’t there to support it. And yes, we know a costume can be a simple as the pyjamas you wear to bed, but if the pyjamas you wear are two sizes too small with holes in the knees then you probably don’t want to wear them in front of your classmates.
At our Redhill office we have a selection of dress-up clothes in the toy area. Items occasionally donated to us by the local families who generously support our work. Suspecting that these might be useful we contacted a couple of local referral sources a few weeks ago and asked if they had a need for costumes with matching books.
We were shocked at the response.
Yes, we know that an average of 15% of children in East Surrey live in poverty, and yes we know that our team receive over 30 requests a week from families struggling to make ends meet, but a request for costumes for 51 children from one school – a school on our doorstep – stopped us in our tracks.
51 children who regularly don’t come in an outfit on World Book Day.
51 children where teachers try to find outfits from the school stockrooms.
51 children who just want to fit in.
And from a group of teachers who don’t want to take all these events out of the school calendar as they have seen how beneficial they are to learning and engagement, and who want so much for it to be an inclusive, fun event.
We received the request and set to work. Our team get great satisfaction from taking on challenges like this. Our objective was to provide a bag with an outfit, an appropriate book and a bookmark for every child on the list.
With the support of our amazing volunteers I am proud to say we were able to meet every request. Lovely bags packed with much care and attention featuring many of the fun outfits our own children had worn in previous years.
A week later the Home School Link Worker collected the items and was overwhelmed. She explained that within the large school population there are 1% of the children in Surrey under child protection orders. A lovely school where these bags will mean so much. The plan is that whilst the children will keep the books and bookmarks, the school will keep the outfits so they have a bank to draw on in future years.
So today (weather permitting) we hope the knights, the superheroes, the princesses and the Gruffalos all have fun. We hope that they all enjoy their books and that they feel part of the World Book Day celebrations.
I’m proud that our team could respond to this special request and do so without having an impact on the core service we offer all year round. As an organisation operating at the heart of the community we feel well placed to connect the community to help each other in a practical and meaningful way, but always with its children as a focus.
Thank you #TeamStork