When is World Book Day 2023? Ideas for costumes, what one-off books are being published UK, what event’s about

From JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series to David Walliams’s Gangsta Granny novels, World Book Day is a great time to celebrate books and the joy of reading

Some of the most enduring stories in the UK’s culture come from books.

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, David Walliams’s Gangsta Granny novels and classics like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland - just to name a few - are referenced time and again in the country’s daily life. Many of these stories are also often seen on the TV and in cinemas.

In just a few weeks’ time we will get to celebrate all things book-related thanks to World Book Day 2023. The annual literature event aims to develop an appreciation of books and promote the joy of reading, with a particular focus on children and young adults.

Research by the organisation that organises World Book Day (which has the same name) has found reading’s benefits extend far beyond better literacy skills. Several studies have shown that children who get into the habit of reading for fun have been found by studies to be more empathetic, happier and more studious than those who do not.

So, when is World Book Day 2023 - and how can you celebrate the event? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is World Book Day and why do we celebrate it?

Set up by United Nations (UN) culture agency Unesco in 1995, World Book Day was first held in the UK in 1997.

Every World Book Day, 15 million book tokens are given to British children under the age of 18 through their school or nursery. These can be redeemed at most bookshops for any one of around a dozen special edition titles that are launched exclusively for the celebration (see list below). Or they can be used to get £1 off a non-World Book Day book or audiobook.

World Book Day 2022 will be the 25th edition of the event in the UK (image: Adobe)

It is part of an attempt to get everyone into reading, regardless of their background or family’s financial status. World Book Day aims to encourage children and their parents to spend 10 minutes a day either reading, or sharing stories with one another.

The organisation says this can aid a child’s future success, as studies have shown reading not only improves a kid’s vocabulary and test scores in English, but can also be good for their mental health.

As well as providing the gift of reading, World Book Day also puts on family and educational events you can tune into. A list of these can be found on the World Book Day website.

When is World Book Day 2023?

World Book Day 2023 is taking place on Thursday 2 March 2023.

However, World Book Day book tokens will be valid in advance of the big day. They go live on Thursday 16 February and will be valid until Sunday 26 March, which means you can get into the spirit of the event at your own convenience.

World Book Day activities often include dressing up as characters, like Harry Potter (image: Getty Images)

Which books are being launched for World Book Day 2023?

Each year sees several of one-off books published by well-known authors. These can be redeemed with a book token or, if your child wants more than one, are all priced at £1.

Previous offerings have included works by Matt Lucas and Michael Morpurgo, as well as books from well-known kids franchises, like Hey Duggee. Here is a full list of the books that are being specially launched for World Book Day 2023:

Beginner readers:

  • ‘Billy’s Bravery’ - Tom Percival
  • ‘Bedtime for the Burpee Bears’ - Joe Wicks and Paul Howard
  • ‘Lifesize Creepy Crawlies’ - Sophy Henn

Early years readers:

  • ‘You Choose Your Adventure’ - Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt
  • ‘Dave Pigeon: Bookshop Mayhem’ - Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey
  • ‘Marvel Spider-Man: The amazing pocket guide’ - Catherine Saunders

Fluent readers:

  • ‘The Boy With Wings: Attack of the Rampaging Robot’ - Lenny Henry and Keenon Ferrell
  • ‘A Dragon Realm Adventure’ - Katie and Kevin Tsang
  • ‘The Strangeworlds Travel Agency: Adventure in the Floating Mountains’ - L.D. Lapinski
  • ‘Kay’s Brilliant Brains’ - Adam Kay and Henry Paker

Independent readers:

  • ‘Boot It!’ - A.M. Dassu and Zainab ‘Daby’ Faidhi
  • ‘Being an Ally: Real Talk About Showing Up, Screwing Up, and Trying Again’ - Shakirah Bourne and Dana Alison Levy

Ireland-only releases:

  • ‘Hazel Tree Farm: One Stormy Night’ - Alma Jordan and Margaret Anne Suggs
  • ‘Rita agus an Dragún’ - Máire Zepf and Mr Ando

Wales-only releases

  • ‘Gwisg Ffansi Cyw’ - Anni Llŷn

World Book Day costumes

Many UK schools mark World Book Day by allowing pupils to come in wearing book-themed fancy dress. If you’re pressed for time, we’ve rounded up the best World Book Day costumes to buy online.

You can also find dressing up ideas on the World Book Day website. But if you want to make your own, here are some simple costume ideas you can put together on a budget:

  • Gangsta Granny - David Walliams has become a bestseller off the back of this fun character. All you need is a blouse, a cardigan and a grey wig (or some grey hair dye) to turn your child into an improvised Gangsta Nan.
  • Harry Potter or Hermione Granger - Handily, J.K. Rowling’s prospective wizards all wear standard school uniforms. So you just need a tie and a stick for a wand (and some glasses and a lightning bolt scar if you’re going for Harry Potter).
  • Long John Silver - Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ character offers the excuse for you to dress your kid as a pirate. All you need is a white shirt, black trousers and a painted-on beard to get the look going. You can make an eye patch out of cardboard and string. And if buying a hat seems a bit much, find some material you can turn into a bandana.
  • Peter Pan or Wendy - Peter Pan needs an oversized green polo top and a pair of tights (preferably green). You can fashion a cone hat out of card and colour or paint it green. For Wendy, you just need to put your child in their sunday best and give them a ribbon hair tie.