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World Book Day Activities For Your School And Classroom


Tomorrow is World Book Day and this is a great opportunity to celebrate reading and books, beyond dressing up for the day… bring a taste of literature and the pleasure of reading to your school and classroom with some of these activities.

School Wide Activities:

• Arrange a series of assemblies throughout the week leading up to World Book Day, or have one fabulous assembly that really gives books a great shout out:

     o Talk about favourite books, illustrators/illustrations, stories – not just the children’s top choices, but teachers too. It’s brilliant to show that teachers, TAs and any adults in settings are readers and are good role models for children. A breadth of reading is good – biographies are stories as well and shouldn’t be missed out.

     o A Reading Tree is fab. As follow-up to the above, or as a stand-alone activity, ask everyone in the school to add a leaf to a tree of books saying what they are reading now. The tree can be a physical tree (branch off a tree, artificial Christmas tree etc.) or a paper one on a wall, and the leaves paper ones/post-its. It’s fun and interactive and can be done in class time or break times. This can be started on World Book Day, but please don’t let it die a sad death… either keep it healthy by letting new leaves grow (encourage new growth by constant additions of recommendations and suggestions) or kill it as soon as it starts to fade. There’s nothing worse than a dying plant hanging around, especially one that is meant to be project a positive image.

     o Spend time discussing the fact that stories form his-stories – tie it in with history/myths and legends/biographies/factual books. Stories tell us about who we are by telling us who we were and what we believed. They link us with us our past and we link us with the people of the future. They are time travel in our hands.

     o This is an opportunity to discuss that sharing stories or reading at bedtime promotes a good night’s sleep. Research shows that reading books, even the same book repeatedly, before bedtime helps very young children learn new words*.

• Put up posters of favourite books and authors, quotes from books around the school, illustrations and illustrations – and ask the children to add to these. A competition always focuses the mind in these matters, and a book is a great prize!

• Arrange a Book Shop Swap – ask children and parents to bring in old books to either sell or swap. Can be a great way to interact with books and raise money for the school.

• Arrange a trip to a library or a visit from a library van. Librarians love this (really).

• Arrange an author visit – there are loads out there, who will come and talk to you about their books for free, and some that will charge. Shop around for a good deal – literally, ask bookshops and booksellers, they have loads of ideas about this and the contacts too.

• Look around for a good storyteller. You can find these in school – you’ve a treasure trove at your fingertips! Swap class teachers for a story and a session of art and activities, use children from different classes to read to each other and share stories (including ones they’ve written themselves – they love this), parents, the cleaners, catering assistants… whoever is part of the school community. Professional storytellers, like me, are available and charge very reasonable rates. We come in for a morning or a day and can tell stories to various sizes of groups and ages of children; and can provide different types of workshops based on our skill sets and what you require. Contact the Society for Storytelling for more information.

Classroom Activities:

• Create a good classroom reading environment – children really respond to somewhere quiet and secluded in a classroom to retreat to, and a reading area is fundamental to every single classroom. To me, books provide gateways to imagination and freedom, for readers and non-readers alike, so there should always be plenty of books available. Book areas can be fancy with trailing voile curtains and chairs, to a few scattered cushions in a corner of the room. Once, I used the bottom of an old metal cupboard. It wasn’t grand, but it was a place that the children valued and loved for what it was, a place of their own, a place of peace.

• Create an ethos of reading for pleasure. Too many times we’ve heard, and felt, that reading with children has become a chore. Move the emphasis of reading tests and comprehension tasks, if only for a few days. Spend time chatting about reading books in an informal way, what you enjoy about them, what you don’t, why it’s OK not to like stories, which you love (personally) and what aspects of stories you drive you want to read more. Read quietly alongside each other, make time for ‘noisy reading’ when you all share what you’re reading. Bring in a book from home you’ve ‘destroyed’ with highlighting and notes, or just read and re-read so many times it’s falling to bits. Explain that this isn’t ‘destroying’ a book that you love but using it and interacting with it. Show what you can do with a book you own. Books can live and breathe, just like us. They don’t stand still.

• Play with books. Build towers. Build bridges. Demystify them for children and get them to handle them with joy.

• Discuss library manners – how you treat library books and how to act in a library

• Ask the children to make up stories based on illustrations taken from a book the children do not know – may be an old book that will be a mysterious when you do the ‘reveal’ – then compare with the original. Also do the same with a text and creating an illustration.

• Play ‘Consequences’ – write a story and pass it along from child to child, or on a larger scale from class to class, with each participant or class writing the next part, only receiving the piece of the story prior to the one they’re writing. Start with a shared beginning and end with gathering everyone together to create the ending.

• Think about different ways of storytelling – oral storytelling, puppet shows, plays, films, and so on. Experiment with them. Record the children’s favourite ways of storytelling. Compare different versions of storytelling (say Mary Poppins – book and film, Paddington Bear – book, TV and film).

• Compare different copies of the same book – for example, have you got an old copy of Alice in Wonderland that you could put next to a newer version? Do they look the same? How are they the same? What’s different? How/why are they different? Discuss fashion and changing tastes, societal changes etc – go as deep as you want with this one.

• What did your parents read when they were little? Or your grandparents? Are those books still around? Invite them in for a Book Blather and/or Book Party (Anyone up for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party?)

• Always make a bookmark. It’s illegal not to make one during any event connected with books. If not, if should be.

There we have it. Whatever you do, or don’t do, have fun!

*Goodnight book: sleep consolidation improves word learning via storybooks (2014) Find the article online here - Other links: The Society for Storytelling 

Emma Middlemiss, The Storyteller, is known as EmblaBee and is available for more tips and ideas. She can be contacted via her website.

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