Happy World Book Day! It’s a great day for people who love reading, as well as for those who really hate trees.
If you’ve got kids, I gather it’s the done thing to have them go to school in costume as their favourite characters from literature. This is, of course, charming and adorable. Within reason. Hermione, Lyra, the BFG: good. Patrick Bateman, Christian Grey, The Beast Of The Sea: bad. Anyone from Lord of the Flies: could go either way. Should spice up breaktime, at any rate.
But. There’s a worry that this might not be the best way to get kids into books. Over at the BBC, Dominic Casciani is worried that kids aren’t engaging with literature because they’re busy hunting him down with throwing stars. Or something similar.
Maybe there are better ways to instil kids with a true love of reading – to help them understand that books are the gift that keeps on giving, a joy and a solace that’ll be with you all your life.
So, with that in mind, here are some suggestions of alternative activities you might like to pursue with your child this World Book Day.
Introduce them to the pub.
Surely there is no greater pleasure than settling down at the corner table of a quiet, wood-lined pub of a spring afternoon, pulling a paperback from the jacket pocket, and sinking into an afternoon’s reading. Teach your kid this early, and they’ll be a reader for life. They’ll need a pint, though. And some pork scratchings while you’re at it.
Start a row.
You can both enjoy this one. Ideally, the child will learn that you can use books and the information they hold to illustrate a point. Or, at a pinch, to hit someone round the head with until they agree with you. You might also show them how useful dictionaries can be for finding definitions of contentious terms, and dropping on your enemies.
Leave them in a waiting room.
For this one, you may need to infect your child with a non-fatal disease – a bad flu or tonsilitis should do it. Rabies would normally be too far, but do feel free to work with what you have. What you want to do here is teach the child that a book – any book – is crucial if they want to succeed in adult life’s main activity, Avoiding Speaking To Other Humans.
Take them to a library and teach them to hate.
There are few things in life quite as invigorating as a good solid hatred – and the library is the perfect arena to develop your very own. Quiet, it means you’ll never hear the one you loathe say anything that might contradict the character you’ve built up for them in your head. It’s fair to say that I would probably never have got through the library hours needed to get a degree if I hadn’t developed a loathing almost beyond purity towards a chap who used to sit near me. We never spoke; I never knew his name; he might not have been the worst. But for me, he was the tight-jeaned dickhead military historian with shit hair that I needed right then. So, this World Book Day, bring your child to the library. Let them choose whatever book they like, and find them a special chair just for them. And then, a few minutes later, point to someone across the room and whisper “See her? What a douchebag.”
And there you have it! Try any of these cheap and easy activities and your child will be a reader for life. One thing, though: if at any point they become the kind of person who claims to love books because of how they smell, remember you can always do as the Spartans did, and leave them on a mountain to face starvation and wild beasts alone. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a jury in the land who’d convict.