Thursday, March 7, 2019

On World Book Day, let's see an end to kidlit snobbery - Today's timely #ReadItTorial

World Book Day costumes at the ready!
It's World Book Day, a cause for celebration for all lovers of books, and an annual event that usually has us standing slightly back and watching with sheer awestruck looks on our faces as schools across the land, and parents, and kids all embrace the tradition of celebrating their favourite books by dressing up as their favourite characters.

We love to follow the day on social media (alas, work prevents me from doing much more than that but oh to work in a job that allowed that kind of dressing up! We'd be up for it, for sure!) and it's always heartwarming when authors spot someone dressed as a character they've created, and tweet or post about it on their own socmed feeds. Imagine being a kid and seeing your favourite author tweeting about or liking your photos of something you've put loads of effort into. That's hugely rewarding. 

Sadly, when it comes to the actual 'book' aspect of World Book Day, we've heard the same thing practically every year. Kids are usually steered in a particular direction at C's school, and it's usually falling back on choices that kids have long since moved on from. In progressive years, they've selected themes of classics, of authors like Roald Dahl, or have put the brakes on kids just letting rip with their own imaginations and their own choices of reading material. 

This year there were no such rules, and we siezed the opportunity to be a bit rebellious. You see, if there's one thing that schools seem to REALLY hate, it's any association with movie characters that have stemmed from books, or worse still, any association whatsoever with comics.

Zip! Zap! Thwip!


So we did a bit of both. There's a good reason for this: 

1) In the case of C's chosen costume (Spider-Gwen / Ghost Spider) she's about as well read with the comic series as it's possible for a kid to get. 

2) In the story arc for Spider-Gwen, the titular character isn't just some sock-em-up 2 dimensional girl superhero (these days it would indeed be ironic if ANY comic went down that route), she goes through the whole gamut of dealing with issues and choices that many girls (and boys for that matter) will identify with, and interpret in a wholly constructive way. 

We've recently blogged about 'issues' books and we've really begun to find that C will turn away from books that blatantly (and sometimes uncomfortably) tackle certain issues, but will be drawn towards fantasy or science fiction or superhero stories that DEAL WITH THE EXACT SAME ISSUES but in the realm of the comic character's world, often dovetailing and crossing over with the normal everyday world kids are probably not finding particularly awe-inspiring or gripping when it comes to reading material. 

There has been, there is, and there probably always will be a surface of abject snobbery when it comes to comics as suitable reading material for kids, and yet time and again we've seen comics directly tackling a whole gamut of issues that kids, tweens and teens will face in their lives. 

I personally don't understand the snobbery, when it comes to comics and graphic novels sometimes being the stepping stone between picture books and 'chapter' stuff later on, for kids around the Tween / Year 6 / Year 7 age who still love illustration-heavy books but have moved on from some of the lower-middle-grade offerings which, in some cases, offer fairly unchallenging text but more illos than a standard chapter book offering. 

When it comes to World Book Day there really are only one set of folk who should get to choose how a school conducts itself on that day - and that's the pupils themselves. Getting kids enthusiastic about books is the whole point, right? So rigidly setting out a bunch of rules that kids are going to see as just another example of adults coming along and peeing on their bonfires surely makes no sense whatsoever, right?