Books

World Book Day: Sharing a story about sharing a story

We've enlisted some help from World Book Day authors to celebrate the health-inspiring, life-prolonging, opportunity-knocking benefit of reading.

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Once upon a time there was a World Book Day… In fact it didn’t happen just once, it’s now the biggest annual event celebrating all things written and wordy.

This week, thousands of events will mark the occasion, from kids swapping school uniforms for the outfits of their favourite literary characters on March 1, to The Biggest Book Show on Earth, which sees 35 authors and illustrators touring the UK.

The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Share a Story’, so we asked some of the authors involved to do just that.

Nadiya Hussain

My parents didn’t read us stories that much when we were children; it just wasn’t something they thought of doing much. I do remember as a little child loving The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and marvelling at all the food he got through! When I had my own children this was one of the first books I bought for them and they loved it just as much as me. It’s just a lovely book to share with little ones and watch their faces turn to surprise at the end when he turns into a beautiful butterfly. Even now I probably read it three times a week to all of my children, they all still want to read it but their fingers are too big to fit through the holes now!

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Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story is a £1 World Book Day book

For me, as much as I love cooking and baking, writing is one of my very first loves. It’s the way I express myself and I encourage my kids to express themselves that way as well. When I was about seven I wrote a poem that won a national competition and that was it, I got really into reading and writing in a big way and I’ve been doing it ever since; reading, writing, lots of poetry.

As much as I love cooking and baking, writing is one of my very first loves

My winning poem was about a mother who was in the bathroom and got soap in her eyes and her kids were knocking on the door. So, I was obviously psychic because that’s my life now! I can’t even have a bath without my daughter sitting outside the door saying ‘I’ll just keep you company mum’.

Sleeper hit: You can bed down for the night at Gladstone’s Library

Julian Clary

At school we had a teacher who used to play us music and ask us to write a story about whatever the music made us think of. I love this. I wrote a story about a cat who was lost in the woods. There was a big thunderstorm and the poor, frightened creature had to dodge falling branches and puddles, run and jump. Eventually soaking wet and hungry the bedraggled animal made it home to her owner (me), and sat purring by the fire eating something tasty. The music was the enigma variations by Edward Elgar. I was in tears.

I wish there had been a World Book Day when I was a child

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The Bolds’ Great Adventure by Julian Clary, illustrated by David Roberts is a £1 World Book Day book

At home I loved Rupert the Bear when I was younger – and still do! We’d all read together before bedtime. There was something very whimsical and charming about this bear in his scarf, who’d be whisked away by a giant eagle or an errant hot air balloon to China, but he’d always be home in time for tea! I wish there had been a World Book Day when I was a child. What a wondrous thing! I’ve always loved reading and escaping into a fictional world. And this has proved very hard now I’m (sort of) grown up.

Clare Balding

I love reading to my niece Flora and she makes me do all the different voices for her. I wrote stories as a child but nothing I can remember clearly. I walked with Michael Morpurgo for the walking programme I do on Radio 4 [Ramblings] and he told me I should write books about animals for children. I love his work and thought it was so kind of him to encourage me. The first book I wrote was My Animals and Other Family, which was the story of my childhood based on all the animals we had. Every chapter was a different horse or dog. I’ve always joked with children that I grew up thinking I was a dog and then in Jersey at their children’s literature festival I was asked, “Did you realise you weren’t a dog yourself or did your parents have to tell you?” The literal thinking of it made me laugh and also I thought – there’s a story in that.

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The Girl Who Thought She Was A Dog by Clare Balding, illustrated by Tony Ross is a £1 World Book Day book

Tom Fletcher

My parents read to me every night. I loved story time. They made it magical and fun. Dr Seuss, Raymond Briggs, the classics! Doesn’t every kid wish their snowman would come to life and take them flying? I still find that book so magical. My dad also made up stories about a dragon which were brilliant. I cry at books that aren’t even that sentimental. Sometimes it’s just a clever line or a really satisfying plot idea that I didn’t see coming.

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Brain Freeze by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Shane Devries is a £1 World Book Day book

Cressida Cowell

When I was nine years old, I read The Ogre Downstairs, by Diana Wynne Jones to my brother and sister, my cousins, to anyone who would listen. Thirty-five years later, I read it to my own children. This book has wicked stepfathers, and chemicals that make you fly. I have never met a child who does not love this book.

Sharing books sends a message that books are important

For very young kids, books that I especially loved sharing with my children included anything by Dr Seuss, because he combines a rollicking rhythm and fun with meaningful messages; Mick Inkpen’s Kipper books; Helen Oxenbury’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes; the Charlie and Lola series. For older children, every member of the family read Wonder by RJ Palacio and loved it. Favourites for teenagers that I’ve shared far and wide include The Hitchhiker’s’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and One by Sarah Crossan.

I believe passionately that sharing stories is vital. Recommending or sharing books sends a message that books are important, and fun. And reading with children beyond the age of picture books is exceptionally valuable: books read to you in your parents’ voices stay with you all your life.

The incredible pensioner and toddler book group keeping old minds active

Chris Hoy

I remember my mum reading Winnie the Pooh to me at home as a very small boy, I loved the illustrations and I loved the fact that Christopher Robin had the same name as me! My sister introduced me to Roald Dahl books as a kid and it opened up a whole world of imagination for me, particularly since I wasn’t an avid reader up to that point. I read them over and over growing up, my favourite by far was George’s Marvellous Medicine and especially the grandma who played a vile character in the story. It didn’t conform to any other fairytales.

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Sir Chris Hoy is on the World Book Day Award judging panel

My sister always had her nose in a book, would share hers and she hasn’t stopped since! I started reading to my son Callum when he was just old enough to talk. He loved Rabbits Nap by Julia Donaldson and any books that had tabs to lift, things that popped up, or any sort of physical interaction.

Joanna Nadin

I remember my Cornish grandma reading me the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling – the ‘great grey green greasy Limpopo river’ still sings in my head today. I read Dr Seuss to my daughter when she was days old. The rhyme was a sort of song for her, I suppose. And she grew up loving The Lorax and Sneetches. Her favourite though was Goodnight Moon. Especially the line ‘goodnight mush’. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was published when I was 13, and my friend Jude told me I had to read it. So I did. Twenty-something years later I wrote the Rachel Riley diaries partly in homage to Adrian and his small town life with big ambitions.

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Sir Chris Hoy and Joanna Nadin write the Flying Fergus books, illustrated by Clare Elsom

Clare Elsom

I remember both my parents reading me collections of short Enid Blyton stories, full of goblins and fairies and magical adventures. I was warm in bed and surrounded by favourite stuffed animals… It’s a lovely cosy memory! Last year I introduced my neice to the wonders of Kes Gray and Jim Field’s Oi Frog! She adores it. There have been many cries of ‘again again’ for that one, and she’s pretty much word perfect. I bought her Oi Cat! a few months ago and that’s gone down just as well. A few years ago a friend told me to read Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy. It’s such a fantastical, complex, huge idea. It’s stuck with me. And who wouldn’t adore Manchee.

Dermot O’Leary

Both my parents are big readers but my dad is a born storyteller. Every night he’d read us old Irish fairy stories that he was passing on. He’d been told them as a child and then he shared them with his children. I remember being captivated by the magic of stories like The Children of Lir and Tír na n-Óg. Fairy stories and folk tales are brilliant to read aloud to kids; full of magic and bravery and love. They’re important culturally so it’s good to keep on sharing them with children.

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Dermot O’Leary is the author of Toto the Ninja Cat and The Great Snake Escape and is taking part in the Biggest Book Show on Earth

We believe in the power of words. With literacy levels struggling across the UK and library closures hitting hard, we want to give you a hand to get books to those who need them. That’s why we launched The Big Issue Big Books Giveaway last year, offering free books to groups who need them.

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