‘Pure capitalism’: World Book Day leaves parents divided over the stress and cost of dressing up

World Book Day should be a chance for children to celebrate their favourite characters - but it can come with a cost  (iStock/The Independent)
World Book Day should be a chance for children to celebrate their favourite characters - but it can come with a cost (iStock/The Independent)

“Happy ‘oh f*** it’s #WorldBookDay’ to all parents who celebrate”, one dad posted on X, as overworked parents vented their frustration over last-minute costume choices.

Millions of boys and girls across the country have been marking World Book Day on Thursday, by recreating everyone from chocolate factory guru Willy Wonka to footballer and unlikely children’s book star Jamie Vardy.

But a cost-of-living crisis has created a malaise in some parents who curse the once-a-year event - with some schools even cancelling it altogether.

One parent wrote on X: “Bloody hell the sheep love a forced do this day. World Book Day today and some of the outfits kids have gone in. Mine just went in t-shirts with a book on.”

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Richard Innes, head of content at Brew Dog, added to the discourse: “On behalf of all parents everywhere, allow me to say, always and forever, without fear of exaggeration, I hope the inventors of World Book Day burn in hell.”

Theatre director Emma Bramley, posted on X: “World Book Day is work fancy-dress stress-parents-out-make-poor-kids-stand-out day and I f***ing hate it! Nothing to do with books or reading just pure capitalism!”

At Miskin Primary in Mountain Ash, the school council wanted to "make it as fun as possible, but not put any financial burden on those who can not afford it", said head teacher Fran Davies.

She said children "could come in jeans and a jumper, they could come in uniform with some make-up on like they were at St Trinians. Some may come dressed as wizards like they’re at Hogwarts".

But not all families are so negative about the annual event, and can find inspiration in unusual places.

Owen, 10, went to Paces School in Sheffield a specialist school for children with cerebral palsy dressed as an Oompa Loompa.

Owen loved his Oompa Loompa outfit (@Hazzy2_0)
Owen loved his Oompa Loompa outfit (@Hazzy2_0)

His father Mark said: “I read about the viral Wonka Chocolate Factory in Glasgow and I thought it got some bad press. Owen was very excited once he had got the outfit and face paint on, he was looking forward to getting out there.”

“I can fully understand it from a cost point of view, a lot of families are struggling with the general costs of living at the minute, so any added expense can be a struggle.

“I’m not sure about [the stresses] of thinking things up, this comes more to imagination and whether you actually have the time and even want to take part.”

Teddy, 8, went to Fiddlers Lane primary as Willy Wonka aiming to be the most popular kid in school with dozens of Wonka bars to hand out to fellow pupils.

His grandmother Jackie told The Independent: “I was just thinking when mine were little we used to make all the outfits so it was double the fun for them but I think these days it’s more peer pressure from the kids as it is the parents.”

And Aj Durrani, 8, was deciding between Bob Marley and Martin Luther King “because they changed the world” before heading into Bracken Edge Primary School in Leeds.

His mother Terri-Anne Hamer said: “He umm and ahhed either way he was going to be an iconic person. He learned the I Have A Dream speech of YouTube, it absolutely melted my heart.

“It is an 80s Blue Brothers suit but we took away the sunglasses and gave him a sign.”

Ms Hamer recognises that the costs can be prohibitive but feels overall the event is still something to celebrate

“The cost is silly and schools know people are struggling,” she said. “Some schools have cancelled it altogether and then the kids get upset. This year parents have become more creative. There is not much joy in the world at the moment so if them wearing a costume at a reasonable price makes him happy then so be it.

“Especially when he wants to do an inspirational character you can’t really say no can you?”