World Book Day (in the UK and Ireland)

World Book Day (as observed in the UK and Ireland) is an oddity, like the World Series, in that the event is clearly not world wide. The aim of the Day is to foster a love of reading within children and raise money for Book Aid International. The most visible effect of this local-world event, outside the UK, to J. K. Rowling fans are the endless photographs on social media of tiny witches, wizards, house elves, and now Ickabogs and Pigs. To find more about the history and impact of this annual event within Britain, join me after the jump.

World Book Day had it’s genesis in 1930 in Spain to celebrate the the date of Miguel de Cervantes death (23rd April) before being adopted by UNESCO in 1995. As the date is also the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, this date was kept. This book day is still very popular in Spain and Sweden, but you would be forgiven for missing it’s impact in most of the world.

In the UK and Ireland it is celebrated on the first Thursday in March, to avoid clashing with either St. George’s Day or the Easter school holidays. The UK’s event was launched in 1998 by Prime Minister Tony Blair at the re-built Globe Theatre in London. As part of this event every child in education is entitled to a £1 book token to exchange for either a specially published World Book Day book, or the publication of their choice.

The purpose is to foster and encourage a love of reading among children, and one of the ways this is done is by dressing as their favourite character on the day. Parent’s of Primary aged children will be familiar with the the competition to create ever more elaborate costumes (and the hope that this year’s favourite will be relatively simple to make). Harry Potter has always been a popular subject as the school uniform depicted in the films (other than the cloaks) is not so dissimilar to the uniform as worn in the UK.

It is safe to say that Word Book Day is now a staple of the educational year, and J. K. Rowling’s works are no less popular than they have ever been. The Twitter engagement from Rowling to her fans and their reaction has been almost wholly positive. So the next time you find your social media flooded with Parents, Teachers, children and their pets dressed in House colours, the chances are that it’s the first Thursday in March.

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