Books

World Book Day: How stories can help children escape lockdown

Award-winning author Sita Brahmachari is an Amnesty International ambassador and writer in residence at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. She knows the importance of reading for escapism

Escapism will be particularly important for children this World Book Day.

Escapism will be particularly important for children this World Book Day.

I wrote my World Book Day adventure story The River Whale in lockdown. The story that came to me is one of wild dreaming, of freedom, of taking care of the planet and a world where every child gets a chance to fulfil their dreams.

The fact that reading for pleasure is the most important indicator of a child’s success means that the hope, healing, imagining, courage and daring to be found in World Book Day stories can help children navigate their way forward far beyond the confines of their lockdown worlds.   

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World Book Day’s mission is to offer every child and young person the opportunity to read and love books by giving them a chance to have a book of their own.

That there are at least 400,000 children in the UK today who do not have a book of their own at home is a shocking statistic, especially when access to libraries and schooling has been so challenging this year. Children and young people need to be nourished in many ways and their lives are blighted by book poverty as well as food poverty. 

In the dreaming room that Imtiaz in The River Whale moves into in her adoptive family, she feels she has the space, for the first time in her life, to do more than survive. She is hungry to quest beyond her own experience to step into the shoes of characters she has never met before and feel what they feel.

I felt charged to write a story that would help children who have lived through this harsh time to dare, dream, believe and imagine brighter futures

Until this point in her life access to a whole bookshelf of new stories has never been her reality as is the case for so many children.

This and her local library and librarian give her the opportunity to step through a dreaming portal she calls ‘the globe window’ to discover new and extraordinary worlds that will, as the facts show in real life, make all the difference to her dream to become a marine biologist coming true.

The River Whale by Sita Brahmachari (Hachette) is a World Book Day £1 title
1450_bookday_The-River-Whale_WBD
The River Whale by Sita Brahmachari (Hachette) is a World Book Day £1 title

I dreamed up the ship house that Imtiaz has moved into as a metaphor for a place that all children deserve to be welcomed into as they lose themselves in stories, because books can be our dreaming rooms too. They can anchor us, lend us sails to travel rivers, oceans, continents and planets, lead us to dive into beautiful, awesome, healing blue planet ocean light.

When I was invited to be a World Book Day author this year I felt charged to write a story that would help children who have lived through this harsh time to dare, dream, believe and imagine brighter futures.

The joy of World Book Day is that every child can dive into that dream.

The River Whale by Sita Brahmachari (Hachette) is a World Book Day £1 title

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