Don’t Judge a Kid by their Costume

Mark Parenting, Popular 27 Comments

A lot has been written about World Book Day, and rightly so.

A celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading. Shared in over one hundred countries. A beautifully uncomplicated premise in an otherwise complicated world.

And yet, like any parade, some people can’t wait to piss on it. The main target of their ire? Dressing up.

Across social media they bemoaned the influence of Disney, bewailed the rise of the Superhero and mourned the death of their own literary heroes.

In most cases it was well intentioned, but more than a few smacked of downright snobbery.

I’m no expert on EYFS, nor do I have any experience other than that as a parent, but I can tell you what I witnessed at school on Thursday.

The playground was indeed awash with questionable costumes. Like a Frozen convention had been double booked with a Marvel Avengers Assembly (see what I did there!)

But I also spent the afternoon in their classroom.

I saw thirty children enthralled by Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake poem; at the behest of Batman.

Half-a-dozen Elsa’s sat open-mouthed, immersed in the imagination of Oliver Jeffers.

And on my table, Iron Man talked passionately about his love of The Gruffalo. Spiderman gave Goldilocks and the Three Bears an ending far funnier than the original. And Elsa read to me from the Frozen annual with such enthusiasm I thought she might wet herself with excitement.

And therein lies my point. The costumes are just a distraction. A smokescreen to what really matters. A reflection on social culture more than the demise of literacy.

Whilst some write off an entire generation on social media, using less characters than the opening chapter of The Twits, children are developing a love of reading in their own unique way, and it’s a joy to see.

It might not be Huckleberry Finn or Christopher Robin, but once that passion for reading is sparked they’ll have their entire life to catch-up on what you think they should have read, and then draw their own conclusion on its worthiness. And who knows, they may even be wearing an Olaf onesie as they do so.

My point being, you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so why judge a kid by their costume?

Comments 27

  1. Hear, hear and thrice hear! Beautifully put. Parents need to get over the idea that World Book Day is there to irritate them and remember it’s all about the books and stories to be told. Us parents need to be less freakin’ self-centred (sometimes).

    1. Thanks Helen. It seemed worse this year, but then all Twitter-storms seem to be, and none more so than the Fifty Shades child. Funny, but wrong … but funny all the same.

    1. Glad it wasn’t just me, some of what I’ve read has been vicious this year.
      To accuse parents of missing the point is, ironically, missing the point.

  2. Totally agree, and most Disney type costumes abound on WBD as harassed parents know there’s no stress involved in their child wearing something ready-made. Not everyone has the time or skills to put together an imaginative costume from the pages of a well-loved book. I know this from bitter experience! It’s the books that matter.

    1. Exactly! I cheated, differents classes, different teachers, same costumes. At this rate my 4yo will be wearing a VERY tight t-shirt in ten years time. Or more likely a Batman costume.

  3. This post is so positive and balanced 🙂 Our school don’t often partake in the WBD experience but when they have done I have let my children go dressed in what ever costume they like (Doctor Who/Darth Vader/Captain Underpants from memory). Its all about the joining in as I see it!

  4. Hurray, I completely agree. I love reading (clue is in the name) and, fingers crossed, my three children are all into books too, yet my four year old youngest went in on Thursday as Spiderman…because he likes the costume and he wanted to dress up. I don’t think it hampered his fun or learning from all the fab WBD activities at school in the least. Some of the comments I’ve read about the “lack of effort” involved in children’s costumes have been incredibly snobby.

    1. Dressing up in something they want to wear is part of the fun isn’t it, much like reading what they want to read. Some of the comments really riled me this year. Just no need for it.

  5. I write pieces for my local paper, and this was my column pretty much to a ‘T’.
    I was disgusted with some of the parents comments on this – and normally I hate MumsNet/NetMums with a passion because of the snobbery/judgement involved in their discussions – so never respond. But might I say bravo!!

    I’d watched Disney’s, The Little Mermaid, long before knowing about Hans Christian
    Anderson’s version, and my son watched the first Hunger Games movie before
    being enamoured by the Suzanne Collins novels.

    I am now a writer and read a book a week (if time allows) – nothing excites me more than having even half an hour to read my book of the moment – and I love dressing up as Snow White/Ariel still – they really are a pack of snoots and the kind that just love finding things to moan about & belittle – the stereotypical ‘Mumnetter’ if you like xxx

    1. I should be careful what I say seeing as Mumsnet shared my post … *whispers* but you’re so right!
      I’d love to read your article on it, is there a copy online?

  6. Oh my god, this yes, THIS

    On a friend’s thread it was claimed that Frozen costumes were a pox on the face of literature (ok I exaggerate but you get my point)
    Another claimed that you could produce an Oliver Twist costume in seconds…
    Now excuse me, but if you can show me one infant (age 4-7) school child who has READ Oliver Twist that might be relevant. If not the child who pours over the Frozen sticker and picture book finding the words Elsa and Anna and “snow” is making strides into reading and books too, and probably more accessibly.

    Disclaimer my child went as “proper” book characters – mainly Harry Potter based ones- 4 out of 5 times and the 5th was when he refused to wear anything but his Spider-Man outfit and clutch his Spider-Man “I Can Read” book. (
    He had read Spider-Man, but not Harry Potter, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Robin Hood on account of he was SEVEN !! )
    This snobbery incenses me

    1. I love the idea of a pox on the face of literature, I’m going to pretend you weren’t exaggerating.
      My boys love the Spiderman “I can read” books too . I despise them on account of reading them SO many times, but that’s what they wanted to read, and who am I to tell them otherwise?

  7. Too much time is spent focusing on what children “should” do. Yes, inspiring children to read is wonderful, but trying to do so by restricting them to the “right” books is likely to have the opposite effect. I am an avid reader (and a journalist and lecturer by profession) and my 9-year-old loves to read, but we don’t have the same taste in books — and that’s fine. Would I love for her to find the same delight as I did in reading The Magic Faraway Tree? Absolutely, but she’d much rather read Harry Potter and that’s great, too. If Disney or Marvel are ways for children to discover the joy and wonder of reading then who are we to say what is “right”? Every child is different. My husband is not a reader, because he was never encouraged to read, yet he is a champion of reading in our house.

    1. Thanks Bianca, that’s just how I see it too. I’ve tried getting my two to read what I loved as a child and they’re not in the least bit interested. And yet give them anything Marvel related and their eyes light up almost as brightly as their imagination.

  8. I agree, my daughter loves reading but I don’t always have the time or money to make or buy a an outfit especially for world book day – and why when she has numerous princess dresses that she could wear instead. And are these parents forgetting that many of these princesses were characters in a book long before Disney got their hands on them? Superheroes originated from comic books – while some may say they are not ‘real’ book they still encourage reading and imagination.

  9. Perfectly put. I was discussing with a friend the amount of intellectual snobbery around World Book Day and the costumes. Does it matter which came first, the book or the film? My four year old has dress up for WBD on Thursday (his school like to be different) and he wants to go as a knight. He wasn’t sure which book character he meant so he spent an hour last night going through his books to find the character he wanted to be. The costume idea came first though, he’s 4. I’m not expecting him to want to dress up as Jude the Obscure! It doesn’t matter what children read, as long as they read and people getting sniffy about the Princesses and Superheroes are missing the point. If the ‘Big Book of Marvel Avengers’ brings a child who would normally never pick up a book to reading for pleasure then fantastic, next time it might be Roald Dahl or Rick O’Riordan that catches their eye.

    1. Thank you, and you’re absolutely right. Some of the worst books I’ve read with the kids were tied in to movies and CBeebies, and yet the boys loved them. They love reading now and it all stems back to those.
      P.S the 5yo’s costume came before the book this year. Thankfully finding a book he liked with a pirate in wasn’t too hard.

  10. Well said! Thank you and amen to that! I think too many people were moaning about the effort and cost invloled and also that so and so was dressed as a super hero and not their favourite book character, but as you say, if it got them in the spirit of loving books, listening intently to teachers reading stories and just buzzing about the day, so what!! I salute you for writing this!

  11. LOVE this and so true! My sons school opted for animal theme to go along with their learning topics which I’m guessing is stop the costume debate.

  12. 11 yr old boy? as Mr Grey? come on thats not world book day! And why wouls his parents allow to go like that? the school did right .

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