The Librarian Files: Reflecting on World Book Day

By James Willats

by Sharan Kaur and James Willats

Sharan Kaur, a secondary school librarian, has been using Accelerated Reader and Star Reading for over a decade to help keep students engaged and on track with reading development. 

As the sole librarian in her school, the high-accountability role can be isolating and intense. That’s why we’ve invited Sharan to write a blog series for Renaissance covering a new topic each month: we hope this blog series will give other secondary school librarians practical tips for library reading engagement and tracking strategies. In addition, Sharan hopes this blog will provide some comfort to other school librarians. 

A confident and capable school librarian is integral to all students’ reading development.

This month, Sharan writes about World Book Day and the role that Accelerated Reader and Star Reading play in supporting the day of annual reading celebration and discovery! 

Sharan writes:

World Book Day musts:

  • Emphasis on the day is about enjoying reading, rather than the day centring as a dress-up day.
  • Pick a theme, e.g. Harry Potter, starting conversations around reading; immersing students into a world of reading; exposure to books/authors they wouldn’t usually read.
  • Provide a range of activities of different levels around the school, not just in the library.
  • Take away activities and extension tasks so the fun can carry on after WBD.
  • Use the school display screens to promote. 
  • Get the whole school involved with the promotion.
  • Deliver a virtual assembly.
  • Reward taking part; make it a challenge; connect it to Accelerated Reader, i.e., engaged time = prize.
  • Recruit student ambassadors to help out.
  • Best practice from the student’s point of view.
  • Did they attend, participate, discuss, see their peers get involved, or miss out? Motivation to achieve for next time. Know the success criteria to be selected for an award

Success from Sharan and staff point of view

On the day, I found staff were happy to drop by and commented on how much fun the children had.

No dress-up = no stress, themed day = guided direction to the day.

Kids were super engaged with a range of activities with varying challenge levels and staff at the school commented there was such a buzz surrounding reading and books right from the morning at breakfast club.

Success from a student’s point of view

The students were happy all day! They were rewarded for their efforts in taking part in the challenge, which kept them motivated, encouraged, involved and grateful. 

  • Take away activities to continue the engagement.
  • Students had been excited for WBD since the last two could not go ahead in person.
  • Students were well informed of the plans early on, so they looked forward to it.

Sharan’s advice:

Unpopular opinion, but the focus for World Book Day at a secondary school should centre around enjoyment in and discussion of reading and not about a dress-up day.

With this in mind, we made the call that there would be no requirement to dress up this year. 

Much to the dismay of both staff and students but probably joy to the ears of parents who don’t have to go to the yearly expense and stress of getting together a costume! 

What we had planned in lieu was so much more impactful, engaging, and definitely contributed to a dialogue surrounding books.

  • Choose a theme: We decided on a Harry Potter theme.
  • Use Pinterest for inspiration: we decorated the school with wanted posters similar to the daily prophet but changed characters to teachers.
  • Golden snitches (Lindt chocolates) were hidden around the school, and daily prophet style posters were put up to say they were missing.
  • Hogwarts Mail: Harry Potter style envelopes were delivered to reading groups to reward students with 20-minutes of engaged time on Accelerated Reader. The letter informed them to come to the library to collect a reward. The reward was a pencil fashioned into a wand; other students saw and wanted to know how they could get one next time? 
  • Promotion is key: To promote and inform, I did a virtual assembly to reading groups Monday before WBD, explained plans, emailed this to all students and staff, and shared it on the school display screens in the canteen.

World Book Day activities 2022

Set some activities: don’t be afraid to make it a challenge; you’re not being mean; high stakes, high expectations, high rewards.

  • Masked reader: guess the teacher behind the book; teachers were asked to pose behind a book they had read. 
    • Extension task – find the teacher asking about the book they are reading to determine if it’s really them. Just posing with a book can be a gimmick and doesn’t actually contribute to a discussion around reading. This way, the student has to go to the teacher and ask them questions about the book they are holding.
  • Library hunt: a scavenger hunt around the library, e.g., find a book in a series or a book in your ZPD.
  • Author quest: search around the school for the hidden author pictures. 
    • Extension task: research the title of said author.
  • Crack the emoji code to work out the title.
  • Fiction quiz questions: go and research the answers, e.g., who was the 1st child to get the golden ticket.
  • All efforts were rewarded with sweets, from word searches to the WBD challenges! So everyone who took part was a winner, and of course, all of our children got their national book token.
  • As a UNICEF rights-respecting school, “all children have the right to education” students were asked to contribute to the UNICEF book swap, and we have one for staff. NTL has research that links book ownership leading to an appreciation of reading.
  • Expensive and time-consuming transformation/redecorations are unnecessary. Cost-effective, and no stress working over or getting in early decorating required; we used one corner of the library as platform 9 and ¾ photo booth using a backdrop purchased online caretakers, a trolley and some suitcases. 
  • We recruited two reliable world book day ambassadors, and a photo was given as a memento, so we didn’t totally rule out dressing up, but it got students and staff talking about what image we were recreating and the other Harry Potter linked themed ideas.  


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