I’ve never been good with a glue gun. It’s not that I’m stumped by the mechanics of it (I’ve been known to wield a caulking gun during a DIY blitz); it’s more I don’t know what to do with it creatively. I freeze up, armed and clueless, defeated by the bulging packets of sequins, pompoms, and paddle pop sticks.
Even as a high school student, when the other kids made elaborate puppets with foam, papier mâché, levers and pulleys, I sewed buttons on a sock and hoped for the best. And then there was the unfortunate incident when my flower-festooned hat was unfortunately mistaken for a pinata… Need I say more?
I’m aware that other people – including some of you reading this – are glue-gun-toting fanatics. You probably even possess a glue gun licence. Well, that’s great, because the world needs you. For fancy-dress parties. For Halloween (admittedly, not so much in Australia, but don’t get me started). We need you to zhuzh up this bleak world into a polychromatic, shiny, tactile adventure. Most importantly, we need you every August for Children’s Book Week.
Book. Week. Two seemingly innocuous words that, when placed side by side, can be more divisive than Grand Final weekend. For some parents, the promise of Book Week sparks joyful trips to Spotlight and weeks of over-zealous preparation. For others, bullish avoidance until last-minute desperate Google searches ensue: Do kids still read Casper the Ghost? Is a football guernsey a legitimate Book Week costume?
To the latter, the answer (and surely most of you agree) is no. A footy guernsey is a footy guernsey – no matter how many AFL-related books Australian publishers believe this country can sustain. Same goes for Oodies, onesies and pyjamas. (Yes, I do know of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but if you’ve read the story, you’ll agree it’s unsuitable for a range of reasons.)
While I’m throwing stones from my glass house, here are some other costumes that don’t quite make the cut: Elsa from Frozen, the Little Mermaid, Mario Bros, Angry Bird, and Pokemon. I’m open to debate on comics – though I’m yet to meet a student who has actually read Spiderman.
Book. Week. Two seemingly innocuous words that, when placed side by side, can be more divisive than Grand Final weekend.
I’m not blaming parents for their Book Week blunders – at least they’re trying. It’s the ones who try too hard that really get on my nerves. The ones who treat Book Week as a cut-throat competition, turning their child into an Instagram post in their race for Social Media Parent of the Year. No discount store Where’s Wally outfits for this lot! I’ve seen some hulking Hungry Hungry Caterpillars and some dapper Mr Foxes that would make Baz Luhrmann swoon.
Such expert displays only serve to intimidate other parents and create rivalry among the kids – which is the opposite of what Book Week set out to do when it was first established all the way back in 1945.
So, as educators, how can we help our parents (and, more importantly, their kids!) relax and enjoy the occasion? Here are a few practical suggestions from a non-practical non-parent:
- Get inspiration from what their kids are actually reading. If it’s books about bums and farts (which are hard to avoid) then try getting creative with cotton wool and toilet paper.
- Organise a costume swap with other parents and reuse the same outifts. The kids won’t remember!
- Make friends with the local theatre group. They’re sitting on a Book Week goldmine.
- Don’t underestimate the versatility of a cardboard box and a couple of egg cartons.
Better yet, you could encourage parents to step away from the glue gun and pass the baton to the kids themselves, because it’s their celebration, after all.
Children’s Book Week: the clue is in the name. So what if your kid’s mask is two-dimensional or their Lorax is made from an old orange bath towel? They’ll be learning new skills and – best of all – getting excited about sharing their favourite stories.
If we can get this right, Book Week should continue to meet its original, low-key premise for many generations to come.