Celebrating World Book Day in a secondary setting: How to encourage an interest in reading beyond dressing up

By Denisha Polin

Written by Sharan Kaur, Librarian at Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School, Birmingham

Preparing for the big day

Lucky enough to have visual screens around the school building? Use these to advertise and drum up hype outside of the library. Do you have whole school designated reading time, such as a library lesson? If not, see if you can have some form time and share your ideas via video call. These are just some of the methods used to create a buzz for World Book Day at Cardinal Wiseman.

On World Book Day in a secondary setting, we celebrate books, authors, reading and exploring creative writing. We place less emphasis on it being a dress up day, which I appreciate works enthusiastically in a primary setting to inspire imaginations, but in a secondary school we opted for a non-dress up day as there are much more ways we can think of to celebrate the day.

Literacy belongs to everyone; not just the Library or the English department – so make these activities a schoolwide approach.

Finding a theme

A really popular and not very time-consuming option we use is Harry Potter because;

  1. Harry Potter is one of the most popular children’s series of our generation (topping the What Kids Are Reading list every year)
  2. We can find a myriad of free resources on sites such as Pinterest


Links to success at reading on AR so far this year

Students who have a good accuracy around the 85% mark and a 20 minute engaged time on the Accelerated Reader diagnostic report receive their Hogwarts mail informing them they have been selected as reading ambassador and their prize is waiting for them in the library which is their wand; actually a pencil fashioned into a wand using hot glue and spray paint.

Activities for fun

Golden snitch hunt:

Both students and staff absolutely love this!

Chocolates with wings attached to resemble a golden snitch are hidden all around the school – make sure your chocolates are allergy friendly to students, or if you wanted to go one better: you could hide a book question inside a capsule, similar to those you see in a vending machine.

WBD £1 Book Token:

We are very grateful to receive these but often I feel that not all of our students will get around to exchanging their token and highstreet chains will not allow myself to come and do a bulk exchange on the student’s behalf; trust me I’ve tried. This year I have arranged with Browns Books for Students to purchase the £1 books in advance directly from them, the students will then exchange their book token with me in exchange for their WBD book.


Photo booth:

As mentioned earlier, our WBD is not about dressing up but we have created our own photo booth wall to emulate platform 9 ¾ so students can pose with their cloak and wand for a pic.


We have put posters up around the school in the style of the Daily Prophet to inform of the activities we have put on.



Activities attached to an objective

The school also has a range of activities to choose from to celebrate World Book Day which target different objectives and are a great way to get both the teachers and students involved. Looking for some inspiration? See the full list of them.



All correct entries will go into a prize draw for a variety of prizes of whatever your school’s budget can allow. We usually give gift vouchers to the creative writing competition and the author research. The smaller prizes include cost friendly ideas such as, extended break, lunch queue pass or a bags of sweets.


Looking for ways to create a reading culture in your secondary school? Check out Sharan’s blog series The Librarian files for top tips, ideas and best practices.

You can find Sharan’s contribution to our 2022 What Kids Are Reading report (page 22-23), here.

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