What’s The Story Behind Book Week?

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It’s officially Book Week! And just like that we’re transported back to primary school memories, where the most important decision was what costume to wear to your school’s book parade.

This year’s national Book Week theme is ‘Dreaming With Eyes Open’. It was created by Darug writer, artist, and teacher Jasmine Seymour, who drew inspiration from country and is encouraging young minds to look for things hidden in the past and present. Jasmine is just one of the many contributors that have been a part of this nostalgic event that has been around since forever. 

When Did Book Week Start?

 The first ever Book Week took place in Australia in 1945. It was hosted by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to connecting Aussie kids with books.

A dedicated week was set up where the council worked with authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers and other organisations to promote reading, modelled on a similar “Book Week” celebrated in the US. The very first theme was “United Through Books”. It was held across Sydney and Melbourne, where “libraries with children’s sections, booksellers and publishers [would] arrange special displays during that week”. 

It was all in an effort to build a love of reading, which of course is extremely beneficial to a child’s language and communication skills, but especially their imagination. Being allowed to dress up out of a usual school uniform felt like a really big deal when you were in primary school. 

But dressing up also breathed life into characters that, for some, only existed on the page. 

The Power Of Dress Ups

For some people, Book Week is just the beginning of dressing up as a character from books and popular media. 

The act of dressing up is known as cosplay, short for costume play, and it reportedly has roots as far back as carnivals in the 15th century where people would dress up in masks and as characters. The first instance of costuming as a fan was apparently at the first World Science Fiction convention in 1939.

American clinical psychologist Dr Rosenberg has written about the psychology of fictional characters, especially superheroes, and how dressing up as them can make people feel more confident or powerful.

As a child, picking a character for Book Week was perhaps based on a real, deep connection to a certain character, or it might be what you had lying around the house. Either way, it can be empowering to embody the characters we love.

So Who Are The Most Popular Characters Of Book Week?

Thanks to organisations like Dymocks, Penguin, and Better Reading there are lists of the most popular kids’ books in Australia, to serve as inspo for the children. 

Dymocks’ all round number 1 book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which came out in 1969. Harry Potter is as popular as ever, probably thanks to the range of characters to dress up as, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe also remains a top option.  

The possibilities are truly endless and kinda makes you wish Book Week was still a thing for adults.