Last February, I had the kind of email a writer dreams of; the kind that comes from their lovely editor and begins with ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ in shouty capitals. It was telling me that Rikin and I had been chosen to be two of the World Book Day authors and illustrators with our Worst Class series. There was much SHRIEKING (from me) and a lot of ‘OMG, FAM!’ (from Rikin) and then there was what felt like eleventy billion weeks of very hard work as we came up with a brand-new plot, wrote it, and got the pictures done in time for today’s announcement of the full line-up.
I’m madly excited to be published alongside Michael Morpurgo, Simon Farnaby, Nadia Shireen and all the other wonderful writers and illustrators. There are fact books, and scary books, and books about getting stuck up a tree with a sausage superglued to your head (yeah, that one’s mine). But here’s the thing: World Book Day isn’t so much about the authors and illustrators, it’s about the readers, and how books can change their day – make it brighter, funnier – or even transform their lives.
Reading for pleasure is the single biggest predictor of a child’s future success, bigger even than how much money their mum or dad makes, or their parents’ educational background.
Reading develops empathy – when we read we get to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and feel how they feel, helping us understand what our friends, and even our enemies, might be going through.
More than anything, reading offers up new lives for size, showing children what kind of person they might decide to be, and what kind of world is possible, if they choose to work at it. I hope the Worst Class in the World in Danger does that a little. Maybe not with the superglued sausage (don’t try that at home, kids) but the fortitude with which the kids meet their failures, and the joy they take in their triumphs.
Whichever book you choose with your £1 token, I hope it cheers you. It will certainly help change lives for others as 24,000 books will be sent free to prisons, and for one in seven children, this book will be the first they ever actually own. I’m proud to be among the authors giving children such an incredible gift. I know Rikin is too.