FROM Alice and the White Rabbit, to hobbits and elves, to a lion in a wardrobe, Oxfordshire has been the birthplace of many, many books.
Those classic tales – along with many more – will be celebrated next week with World Book Day on Thursday, March 6, when children all over the country will spend the day enjoying their favourite novels.
As well as dozens of events in schools, libraries and bookshops, 10 books have been written for the event and will cost just £1 each, to encourage more children to pick them up and read.
One of them was written by Abingdon author David Melling.
His lovable, cuddly character Hugless Douglas is going on a new adventure in the book Hello, Hugless Douglas!, which is aimed at children aged two and above. It is expected to be read by more than 300,000 children across the world next week.
Mr Melling will be on a two-week promotional tour for the book on World Book Day. He said: “It’s fantastic and an honour to be involved in World Book Day, to become part of this.”
Three-year-old Beatrice Scott-Malden dressed up as Beatrix Potter character Mrs Tiggy Winkle
The 51-year-old added: “Really, it’s all about reading and getting children engaged.
“Young minds need books to create imaginations and storytelling is such an important part of growing up.
“World Book Day is for everybody, to make it more accessible for readers, or people who might not be regular readers.”
Mr Melling will also be holding a reading and drawing session at Waterstones in Broad Street, Oxford, on Sunday, March 9.
Jane Treglown, the store’s manager, said: “It’s going to be fantastic. As well as that, on World Book Day we’re going to be inviting schools in to take over our children’s section.
“It’s an opportunity to invite children who don’t normally go into bookshops and make it their’s for the day.
Indy Percival, Iona Asquith and Maya Chapman went to school as the Three Little Pigs when Headington Preparatory School celebrated World Book Day in 2012
“We want to make it comfortable and make them happy around books.”
Ms Treglown said that, despite the promotion, they do not normally see a particular spike in book sales on the day.
But, she said that the event achieved something more important: “It’s more of a long-term investment, these are our future customers and our future readers.”
Mr Melling is unsurprisingly not the only Oxfordshire author to have been involved in recent World Book Day events.
Eliza Graham’s book Playing with the Moon was named World Book Day’s Hidden Gem in 2008.
Ms Graham said: “It was very exciting for me. It boosted interest and sales in the book, and helped me get taken more seriously at my publishers.”
A big supporter of World Book Day, Ms Graham regularly goes into schools to talk to children about the importance of books and aims to get them enthusiastic about reading.
She said: “World Book Day gives teachers a very useful hook for books and reading that’s not just looking at them as literacy tools.
Abingdon author David Melling whose book Hello Hugless Douglas! has been chosen to promote the event
“They are, first and foremost, for entertainment and they should be fun.
“Having your teachers dress up and doing non-curriculum workshops and so on is a good way of reintroducing the idea of books as for enjoyment and for entertainment.”
This year, schools will also visit Littlemore Library.
Library manager Sharon Ingram said: “The children were allowed to choose one thing to do for World Book Day.
Caroline Harris, head of Year Nine at The Cooper School in Bicester, dressed as Alice in Wonderland for World Book Day in 1998
“They wanted to come into the library and be read stories. We’re going to be making bookmarks as well.
“Reading is so important. It gives children a better scope in life, a bigger vocabulary and more confidence.
“It’s very important as a library for us to be able to give our services to schools on World Book Day.”
Children’s authors Charlotte and Adam Guillain are visiting Helen and Douglas House hospice to celebrate World Book Day next Wednesday, March 5.
The authors will read and perform Spaghetti with the Yeti for children and young people at the hospice in Magdalen Road, East Oxford.
Sabine Schwaebisch, a nurse on the Helen House care team, said: “It will be a great opportunity for children, families and young adults from both hospice houses to celebrate this day together.”
For more information on the event and how to get involved, visit worldbookday.com
Bringing back all the magic
ONE school that wholeheartedly embraces World Book Day is Headington Prep School, which sees its pupils dress-up in a friendly competition for the best character costume.
Last year children like three-year-old Beatrice Scott-Malden dressed up as Beatrix Potter favourite Mrs Tiggy-Winkle as part of the fun.
Art historian Julia Calzadilla talks to Rosie Mundell-Perkins, 16, when Cheney School, Headington, invited Spanish authors to visit the school as part of World Book Day celebrations last year
World Book Day 2014 is set to be even bigger. As well as fancy dress, the school will hold a book swap for its pupils, in an effort to recycle books.
In the afternoon, about 30 parents and grandparents will come in to read their favourite books to classes.
Literacy co-ordinator Lorraine Angel said: “World Book Day is a big thing for us. It’s usually a little bit crazy here with the fancy dress. They all put a lot of effort in.
“There are certificates for the best costumes, and teachers will dress up as characters from their class books.”
The 48-year-old said: “We want to get that effect of the magic of a fantastic book back.
“We want to put the enjoyment of reading for its own sake back.”
A famous fan
Philip Pullman author of the famous His Dark Materials trilogy, is a long-term supporter of World Book Day.
The Cumnor author, 67, said: “Anything and everything that we can do to encourage reading is important.”
He added: “The most important thing of all is to get children interested in language very early and help them very young.
“Books are marvellous, but you can’t wait until school.
“Just engage with children. Talk to them, sing to them, make language something fun and creative and interesting.”