The Journey Starts Here: Why Children Need World Book Day

This World Book Day, there is a wealth of books for children to choose from, one of which is by BBC Great British Bake Off Winner, Nadiya Hussain. The year Nadiya won seems a long time ago now, her television and media career having taken leaps and bounds since — one part of which involves writing books for children. Naturally they are recipe books, cleverly interweaved with fairytales. Clair Rossiter’s illustrations add a sense of animation to the books, her artwork so full of movement — the characters could almost jump off the page.

Nadiya took part in a Q&A for World Book Day which you can read here.

An illustration by Clair Rossiter from Bake Me a Story for World Book Day.

A piece from Clair’s portfolio. You can see more here.

This year there are a number of celebrity penned children’s books on the world book day list. Celebrities writing for children isn’t a new thing, but it’s certainly a growing part of the publishing industry. You can look at it from many points of view. If you are an author illustrator, and you’ve worked hard to make a career in children’s publishing, you might feel that celebs writing books is a bit of an easy win. BUT knowing how much work goes into a truly great children’s book, you’ll know that only the top notch titles have any longevity, celeb or not. There is room for everyone.

Since working in children’s publishing, everyone I meet seems to have a children’s book idea!
We know, of course that writing for children is not something everyone can do. But everyone is entitled to give it a try.

And it’s not just the writing that takes a lot of work and talent! Knowing how hard illustrators work, I do feel sad that in many cases the artist isn’t named on the book for their contribution, and you only need to follow author illustrator, Sarah McIntyre aka @jabberworks and her campaign, to see this is an issue (not just with celeb books) So there are certainly things that could and should be changed for the better.

With less parents taking the time to read to their children and with this then impacting the child’s independent reading, it comes as little surprise that a quarter of the country’s children wouldn’t own a book without the World Book Day initiative.

— From The Power of Reading: The World Book Day Effect (continue reading)

Another point of view is this: The number of children with no access to books is huge. Literacy levels are at an all time low and The National Literacy Trust has now published statistics proving that lack of literacy can decrease life expectancy — sounds unbelievable doesn’t it — but we already know that keeping the brain active is a way of staying healthier.
Good brain health = longer life. Here’s the research below:

Not only that, but to be able to read is a gift. Books are so good for us, and we need them more than ever now — it’s a battle between book and the blue screen. So if celebs writing books for kids, means that kids are reading, it cannot be a bad thing, surely? What we have to hope is that those children with very limited access to books grow a passion for reading from this initiative. One book given to a child via World Book Day could open the door to so many children in terms of finding more books, and this is why our libraries are so important:

When you think of children’s illustration, it’s only natural to think picture books, but the exciting thing about illustration is just how much you can do with it. Children’s illustrators do, primarily make picture books, but they’ll often do more where their schedule allows. They take part in all sorts of events, up and down the country, and they often share their skills closer to home — in their own community. This is exactly what Fred Blunt has done, and even better, it involves his local library.
— From lllustrating Outside the Book: Fred Blunt Breathes Life and Colour Back into Local Library 
(read the full article)

There are many books out there. So many books! It’s up to us to share what we know, and to make sure that parents hear about all the amazing new picture book makers and children’s fiction writers out there. In an article for the BBC, The Duchess of Cornwall was interviewed ahead of World Book Day on why reading with your children, and grandchildren is important. In the article, parents talk about the books they love to read with their children: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy are all mentioned. This is a broad spectrum of titles, a great example of different writing styles and eras.

Raymond Briggs’ work has always challenged the boundaries in terms of what we might think a picture book should be. The Snowman is a perfect example of this. It’s gentle, but also raw and real. I loved this story as a child, and I was very influenced by Briggs’ style — so much so that I would spend hours drawing snowy scenes, attempting to capture that atmosphere. Julia Donaldson has a winning formula and coupled with the artwork of Axel Scheffler, a winning partnership. I didn’t read Enid Blyton as a child, but I do know The Magic Faraway Tree books are still very prevalent in high street book stores and still best sellers to this day, as are books by Roald Dahl and Jill Murphy, also both mentioned in the article. The thing all these titles have in common? They were first published over 20 years ago, except for The Gruffalo, but only by (a Gruffalo’s) whisker.

The Faraway Tree — 1943

Fantastic Mr Fox — 1970

The Worst Witch — 1974

The Snowman — 1978

The Gruffalo — 1999

Great books stand the test of time, and I hope that in 20 years from now, parents are talking about books by authors and artists of this generation too.

World Book Day is the start of a journey for many children who wouldn’t otherwise be reading. I cannot imagine a childhood without books. LM

If you’d like to work with Clair Rossiter, you can get in touch via her agent, Arabella Stein here.

You can also follow Clair on Twitter and Instagram