World Book Day 2019: Finding Neverland

A student walks into Frederick Bremer and is suddenly face to shins with a 10ft giant, his ears the size of dinner plates, smiling down at him. Another student’s eyes dart to the right falling upon a bespectacled Piglet talking fraction to Tigger in the Maths corridor. Is this a joke? Further down the street, Tweedledee and Tweedledum are checking uniforms as their walkie talkies crackle by their side. Yet another student could have sworn they saw a Tudor Queen and a Suffragette chatting beside the wall that Humpty Dumpty was sitting cross legged on. What was going on? Where were all their teachers, they wondered. And who let Cruella De Vil in? No one buys animal fur anymore.

And then, by the pricking of the Witch’s thumb, a figure dressed in a long, flowing black gown and cape, with its face in shadow, seemed to hover by … its finger pointing ominously into the distance. There was no mistaking its deathly demeanour and resemblance to the grim reaper: an archetypal literary character that the Year 11s will recognise as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

The students felt as though they had been swept within the pages of so many stories. Was this a teacher zombie apocalypse? Had someone or something infected all the teachers?

Of course they weren’t infected but rather they were captivated and it was by none other than the spellbinding reading bug: the most precious of bugs. Little did the students know that slowly but surely they too were being captivated. A concoction of vocabulary, empathy, morality and knowledge was being whispered into their ears.

Every year, the teachers at Frederick Bremer come out in full literary force to capture the imagination of their students for the one and only World Book Day. Every department takes part and collectively brings a particular book to life.

As a teacher who is new to the school, and having taught in previous schools, I couldn’t help but think that of all the schools in all the towns in all of London, I walked into this one and found my happy place. It was such a joy to see my fellow teachers engaging in the spirit of imagination for the simple fact of knowing that it would delight and encourage the students to question the characters about the books from which they came.

Cynics will tell you that World Book Day celebrations and dressing up should be left to the primary schools but I would argue that events such as this are even more important in secondary schools where our students begin to lose their love of reading and their imagination can all too easily be stifled by curriculum constraints.

On the day, the students took part in matching characters to books and finding as many Favourite Protagonist posters which teachers had compiled. Many students even made their own Favourite Protagonist posters. Students were also asked to vote for the best dressed character costume and the winner who was, both literally and figuratively, head and shoulders above the cast of characters was Mr Bullen as the BFG. He astounded students, and staff, as he sauntered gracefully across the school foyer on stilts.

Another time honoured tradition is the Best Dressed department. It was a close call this year but the winning department for the second year running was the Humanities team who dressed in the most detailed and visually delightful costumes presenting historical figures as literary characters from the Horrible Histories. Ingenious!

Special mention must surely go to the Creative Arts teachers who came out in skeletal force as the family from Funnybones. And who will ever forget the legend that is Mr Machniak as the formidable Cruella De Vil. A true nightmare in black and white.

And finally, I’d like to leave you with this quote. Paul Jennings, one of my favourite childhood authors, states: ‘No matter where they go, children lost in books will always find their way home.’ Every child deserves the best reading teacher in the world. And Jennings tells you how to find this person – go look in the mirror.

Ms T Kyriakou

Literacy Lead Practitioner