Pupils celebrate the power of words on World Book Day

    Schools all over the globe encouraged both students and staff to attend class dressed as a character from their favourite tome to mark World Book Day last week. Here, Eileen Leahy speaks to local children’s author Philip Ardagh about why this annual literary event is so important when it comes to inspiring children to read

    DUST JACKETS Children dress up at St Augustine’s

    THIS year, World Book Day – the globe’s biggest celebration of authors, illustrators and their imaginative creations – is 20 years old. And the event just keeps getting bigger and better, with more and more schools actively participating and making it both fun and educational.

    Lots of our schools took part in the event with all manner of characters – including Harry Potter, Where’s Wally?, Sleeping Beauty and Horrid Henry turning up to school on Thursday [March 2]. Inspiring children to get into reading lies at the heart of this literary festival, which is celebrated in more than 100 countries across the globe.

    Local children’s author Philip Ardagh, who has had over 100 books published in nearly 40 different languages, and has featured in previous World Book Day special edition book lists, is hugely supportive of the event.

    “It’s fantastic,” he says. “I have done events in bookshops for it, and some of the children have never been inside one before. They say: ‘What, you can buy all these?’ and I respond: ‘Well, yes, if you have the money, and if you haven’t then you’ve got libraries.’ So for those reasons alone it’s fantastic.”

    Another bonus, apart from actively encouraging young readers, is that every single schoolchild receives a £1 National Book token.

    Fourteen million of these are given out to educational establishments to mark the event, and to inspire children to explore the pleasure of reading.

    “That’s such a good thing,” continues Philip, who has penned titles including The Little Adventurers and The Grunts series of books.

    “They can either buy one of the special £1 books or put it towards another book.”

    The £1 books are special editions of much-loved works which are available for a limited amount of time in March.

    Each year, ten different ones are published, and the variety children can choose from this year includes Julia Donaldson’s Princess Mirror Belle, Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry Fact Files and David Almond’s Island, to name but a few.

    “I’m very fortunate because I grew up in a house where both my father and mother loved books – they were everywhere,” Philip reveals.

    “But the very best way to get a child reading is for you to read to them when they are very little.

    “Even if you are rubbish at it, or you find it difficult or you are dyslexic, just sharing a story with a child is a fantastic start.

    “And then if you can extend that, and they see you reading, it becomes an instinctive thing.”

    One school to get into the literary sprit was St Augustine’s Catholic Primary in Tunbridge Wells.

    Their World Book Day was organised by English Leader Mrs Edwards, who requested children and members of staff come to school dressed up in ‘an impressive display of costumes’.

    “The children looked absolutely marvellous!” said Headteacher Mrs Jackie Warren. “Throughout the day they took part in book sharing with pupils in other year groups as well in their own class. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to share their favourite stories from the world of books.”

    Read next week’s Times for more on Philip Ardagh ahead of the Knole Children’s Book festival 2017

    Fundraising year equals record results

    A YEAR-LONG incentive which saw pupils at Marlborough House School, Hawkhurst, taking part in a talent competition, book sale, 42-mile swimathon and entrepreneurial business ventures has raised almost £20,000 for various charities.

    On Monday, the school presented their final five cheques, which totalled over £12,000, to the grateful recipients.

    These included Cancer Research UK, who received £7,296.10, and Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, who were awarded £1,300.

    Other charities who benefitted from the school’s fundraising efforts included Canine Partners, Imagination Library and Hospice in the Weald. The final total donated was £19,320.

    A spokesperson for the school said: “Charitable, community initiatives are an important part of school life at Marlborough House, as they not only provide the children with wonderful opportunities to extend their learning, but they also instil in pupils a strong sense of their place in the wider community, and in doing so reinforce the school ethos of ‘Value Self, Value Others’.”