Kids reading

Changing lives on World Book Day

Alison Tweed, Chief Executive, Book Aid International | 1st March 2018 | Blog

As we celebrate World Book Day once again, it does not seem long ago that I was a working parent of primary school aged children frantically raiding cupboards on World Book Day morning for clothes that might transform my over-excited 10 year old into Harry Potter, Wally, Charlie or any one of his other heroes for that all-important day. I’m sure that thousands of mums and dads will remember similar manic mornings!

Every year, we worked it out somehow and it was lovely to see the children together at school all dressed up. Like many parents I have very clear memories of those happy days.

I also have a crystal clear memory of talking to a teacher a few days after one World Book Day and her bemoaning the lack of resources in the school and how tough that made it for them to deliver the demands of the curriculum.

I must admit that brought me up short as I looked around at the state of the art games equipment piled in a corner, a smart AV system, a piano and a school library full of brand new books visible through the glass door in the room next door.

Everything is, of course, relative and schools across the UK are struggling, but at the time I had just come back from rural Uganda. I just could not help comparing the school I stood in on that day to the school I had just visited in Uganda.


A typical classroom in Uganda


Over 1,000 pupils walked around 5k to school and back every day, in makeshift school uniforms with holes in sleeves and trousers and often no shoes – and if they couldn’t scrape a uniform together, that meant no school! They had few or no class textbooks and definitely no school library. All the lessons were written on the blackboard and the children were glad to be there – education was their hope for a different future.

While I was a very long way from Uganda in that moment – it also seemed strangely connected. Every World Book Day, schools across the UK raise thousands to help Book Aid International send books around the world by donating £1 and dressing up as a favourite character and those funds help us send books to schools in just like the one I had so recently seen in Uganda.


Cake sale
Every World Book Day school children across the UK dress up or hold fundraisers to support our work


For me, it was good to think that the fun my child was having on World Book Day (and my morning panic) was somehow connected to this school in Uganda. I knew that they might actually receive books thanks to the events I was seeing in my own home town – and maybe that at some point this would mean that my child and the children I’d met in Uganda would be reading and enjoying the very same books.

And that is the magic of World Book Day – it is not just about the rush to dress up, but about remembering that every child, no matter where they are, deserves to enjoy books. So take heart harried mums and dads struggling to find a quick, easy dress up option – I can tell you with absolutely certainty that in Uganda and around the world, your dress-up really can change lives.


Book Aid International is a World Book Day supported charity. Every year UK schools and families mark World Book Day by donating £1 and dressing up as a favourite book character, by holding a fundraising event or by simply making a donation to mark the day. Last year, schools and families raised £140,000 – enough to send 70,000 books to those who need them. It costs just £2 to send a book, so every penny raised really does make a difference.

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