The Poor Kid

Dressing up as your favourite character from a book is a tricky business this World Book Day judging by the endless stream of princesses I saw going into my local primary school this morning. I saw princesses, lots of them; but spied no books.

They don't make these in my size. Gutted.
They don’t make these in my size. Gutted.

What, I wonder, do poor kids do on World Book Day? The ones from families who are skint? Poverty clings to poor kids like a smell, it follows you wherever you go. As a former poor kid, I confirm this is true.  It is obvious to your teachers, the other kids in class, their parents (especially them), all your neighbours; every single curtain twitching one, that you are poor.  As a poor kid, you don’t anything new, or for spare. You live a life of hand me downs and free school dinners.

And everybody knows.

So on World Book Day, what’s the script for the poor kid? She hasn’t got fancy dress left over from Hallowe’en, and the whole wear-a-sheet-and-pretend-to-be-a-ghost thing doesn’t work if you’re poor. A homemade robot made out of a cardboard box is fine if it’s common knowledge your mam and dad have a nice car and you go on hols to Dubai every summer.  If they know you walk to school no matter the density of the pissing rain and a day out in Southport seems exotic to you because it’s so rare, then that fucking robot underlines your poverty; a child may as well have a neon sign above her head saying “I’m a pov”.

My friend the children’s author Trevor Belshaw has a quirky idea. Why, he asks, aren’t kids encouraged  to go to the library, take out a book they really like and bring it to school with them on World Book Day? It’s free to borrow books, anyone can do it and we need to boost activity in libraries, so…

Too radical an idea? Controversial?

Apparently so.

No, let’s not bother with such bookish craziness; we’ll go for the costume angle instead and, y’know, children can bring a book if they really want to. It’s bound to work, and if it makes the poor kids feel even shittier than they usually do, we’re on to a winner.  Well played.



19 thoughts on “The Poor Kid

  1. I understand your point, but it’s not an either/or. I can only comment on my daughter’s school but a) they are all supposed to bring in the book that includes their character and b) they are all being taken to Sefton Park library (with an application form if they aren’t already members).

  2. My son’s school has a large number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as a result they have a witch and wizards theme for world book day with instructions for making a witch/wizard hat on the back of the letter. I have made him a hat and wand from paper and his friends will all be wearing something similar.

  3. Totally agree. It really should be all about the book for the child, but more often than not it’s all about the stress for the parent!

  4. This. 100% & then some.
    Thank you for saying it, Cath & for daring to be ‘radical.’
    Nothing wrong with dressing up – it’s fun – but World Book Day has to be primarily about the books & not about how much a costume cost.

  5. Whole thing is pissing stupid if you ask me. All kids in primary schools love stories and books as far as I can tell- I don’t think there’s any need to encourage a love of stories, because they already have that and the dressing up thing seems to be stressful for all parents and nothing to do with books!

    1. It is! Pissing stupid – the best way I’ve heard it described! Everybody loves a good story, it’s access that’s often the issue. I hate all this consumerist nonsense.

  6. I do think costumes kind of miss the point, with many kids turning up as Disney Princesses or Spiderman (‘but there’s a book about them’ – no, it’s a film-tie in!). Not to mention the pressure on us parents to provide/make costumes. Taking a book in and saying a bit about it would be more in line with the ‘Book’ theme, surely?

  7. The poor kiss only stand out a mile to the judgemental eye! I was a poor kid in school, this I know now but I don’t believe I noticed when I was a child in school. Every child should be brought up poor then we would have a much more capable generation to leave society to!

  8. If it was meant to be about dressing up then it would be called “World Dressing Up Day”. Maybe allow every child to order a book for world book day, and present them to the children at the school. Let the kids order whichever book they choose, provided it isn’t a film tie in.

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