World Book Day reading challenges for kids

Here are some handy ideas for how to provide inspiration and engage children in reading on World Book Day and beyond!

World Book Day is a day of festivity and fun, a chance to dress up and celebrate. It’s a day like no other in the calendar, now firmly embedded in school curriculums across the U.K. But it is also a chance to foster a love of reading in children that extends far beyond the day itself.

The reading challenges listed here are tried-and-tested and designed to be usable all year round, sparking ideas for other activities to inspire a lifelong love of books and a generation of future readers.

Read Books Aloud – Bring Stories to Life!

Pre-school: Ages 0-3

Reading aloud not only nurtures children’s pleasure in reading, it models how a book should sound and feel, helping children to follow storylines and learn new vocabulary. For a magical read aloud session, choose a book with a nice rhythm and rhyme. Create a ‘cosy corner’ or a reading area where children feel relaxed and comfortable. When reading, encourage an interactive process where children respond to what is being read to them. Add in noises, emphasis, intonation and sound effects to bring the story to life. Children can make actions with their hands or use facial expressions to improve understanding. At the end of reading, make space for reflection and asking questions. Good interactive reading activities include getting children to create sound effects for certain rhymes, express feelings in a read-along puppet show, craft scenes from the book, or go on a Scavenger Hunt to find shapes, colours and objects featured in the story.

Pan Mac recommends:

Trains Trains Trains!

by Donna David

Book cover for Trains Trains Trains!

Big trains, small trains, short trains, long trains . . . which do you like best? Follow fifty colourful trains as they whizz along tracks and through tunnels – up, down, around and back again! Can you find your favourite?

Full of spotting and counting fun, with five trains to find on each page and an exciting fold-out race at the end, this rhyming preschool picture book from Donna David and Nina Pirhonen has been specially developed to encourage pre-reading skills and expand language and vocabulary. With a super-shiny foil cover and fun read-aloud text, Trains Trains Trains! is just the ticket for any transport-obsessed toddler!

What the Ladybird Heard at the Seaside

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for What the Ladybird Heard at the Seaside

and Lydia Monks.

The adventure continues for the little ladybird in Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks's much-loved children's picture book series. The clever little ladybird is off for a day out at the beach, but those two bad men, Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh, are up to no good again. Join the ladybird as she meets a cast of sea creatures and stops Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh from getting up to their usual tricks. Animal-mad little ones will love spotting the story’s seaside inhabitants in this glittery seaside adventure.

Dinosaur Roar and Friends! : World Book Day 2022

Book cover for Dinosaur Roar and Friends! : World Book Day 2022

Discover, learn and explore the colourful World of Dinosaur Roar! in this amazing book for World Book Day 2022!

Meet Dinosaur Roar and all of his dinosaur friends as you turn the pages. Read the rhyming text, learn cool facts and find out how to say the dinosaur names. Search the pages for Dinosaur Squeak, and then turn to the back of the book to test your knowledge with a roar-some dinosaur quiz! With fantastic text written by series creator, Peter Curtis, and Jeanne Willis, Dinosaur Roar and Friends is perfect for the youngest dinosaur fans.


Talk About Books – Create a Question Wall

Picture Books: Ages 4+

Picture books are often the single best resource for prompting discussions about big themes and concepts and developing empathy among children – no matter what the age group. In Coming to England by Floella Benjamin and Diane Ewen, there are lots of opportunities for children to think about concepts like kindness, racism, and what it means to belong. To encourage discussion, create an open space (circle time!) and ask children to come up with as many questions as they can think of related to the book. They might start small: ‘What is the book about?’; ‘What do the characters like?’; ‘What do the characters feel?’ Then, they might get bigger and more philosophical: ‘What is empathy?’; ‘What is kindness?’; What is home?’. The aim is for children to create more and more questions. They might record their questions on a ‘Question Wall’ – organising them into categories or ranking them from small to big, or according to what they’re most interested in. Which questions prompt the best discussions?

Pan Mac recommends:

A Song of Gladness

by Michael Morpurgo

Book cover for A Song of Gladness

Travel the globe in this inspiring journey through the animal kingdom. A Song of Gladness is a timely reminder of the beauty and importance of the natural world from two of today's most celebrated children's book creators.

From a blackbird in a Devon garden to leopards in the African savanna, hibernating bears and chimpanzees high in the forest canopy, A Song of Gladness reminds us all of our connection with nature, and with each other, and the urgent need for us to join together in caring for the planet and every creature in it.

Coming to England

by Floella Benjamin

Book cover for Coming to England

Illustrated by Diane Ewen

Baroness Floella Benjamin travelled from Trinidad to London with her older sister and two younger brothers when she was just ten years old, as part of the Windrush generation. This is her inspiring true story. 

Arriving in England to be reunited with the rest of her family, cold and unfriendly London wasn’t quite what Floella expected. This beautifully illustrated and powerful true story about overcoming adversity is full of Floella’s trademark optimism and joy.


Re-imagine Stories – Step Into New Worlds

Middle Grade: Ages 7+

World Book Day, the perfect time to create a reading-inspired Multiverse! Encourage children to explore their favourite characters and settings by swapping them around and muddling them up. Ask them: What if their favourite character ended up in another story? What would the character do? How would the character act? Use role-play and dramatised conversations between characters to develop ideas. Children might prefer to explore ideas by drawing. Ask them to modernise an old story by redesigning its book cover for 2022. Prompt them to consider how the main themes would change to appeal to a modern audience, whether the main character will be different, what styles and colours would contribute to a bold new design, and how the title of the story might change. A good source of inspiration is Rumaysa: A Fairytale – a magically fresh debut that retells three classic fairytales – Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

Pan Mac recommends:

Rumaysa: A Fairytale

by Radiya Hafiza

Book cover for Rumaysa: A Fairytale

Weaving together the well-known stories of Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, this modern retelling offers a fresh new perspective on three classic fairytales. Locked away in a tower for her whole life by an evil witch, Rumaysa has no idea what lies outside, until one day, she lowers her hijab out of the window and escapes to freedom. As funny as it is escapist, this debut novel will be loved by fans of young adult fiction as well as readers who enjoy retellings of classic stories. 


Recommend Books – Share the Adventure!

Middle Grade: Ages 9+

By this stage, children will be able to tell you what sorts of books interest them. There are all sorts of books to choose from: diverse tales from across the world, stories – either fiction or true, adventures to faraway places, information about favourite topics, poetry, picture books, atlases, annuals, lists, quizzes, film & TV spin-offs, games and puzzles. Create a buzz around all these book choices by helping children make recommendations to each other. Relaxed conversations around reading can help children to feel more confident about what they choose to read. Ways of encouraging peer recommendations include Reading Lists, swapping Book Reviews, creating Book Trailers (try this for the highly cinematic Adventures on Trains series!) or crafting Paper Chains to connect books – whether by themes, characters or genre. And you’ll have a beautiful classroom display to boot.

Pan Mac recommends:

The Highland Falcon Thief

by M. G. Leonard

Book cover for The Highland Falcon Thief

Ages 9-12 years

Harrison Beck is reluctantly joining his travel-writer Uncle Nat for the last journey of one of the world’s grandest trains, The Highland Falcon. But as the train makes its way to Scotland, a priceless brooch goes missing, and things are suddenly a lot more interesting . . . 

The first book in the major mystery series Adventures on Trains, The Highland Falcon Thief is packed with illustrations and clues that both you and the young readers in your life will love to solve.


Keep the Fun Going – A Festival of Books

Teen/YA: Ages 12+

By the time they start secondary school children have more autonomy, but fostering good reading habits is often a challenge. To create a positive attitude to books and build a strong reading community, encourage children to set up their own reading blogs, clubs, initiatives, and social media pages. For World Book Day itself, they could even host their very own ‘Festival of Books’, complete with posters, invitations, activities, and wristbands. Competitions can be a good incentive, particularly for reluctant readers, as can re-creating scenes from books in comic book format, acting out or drawing scenes from stories, snapping favourite teachers or adults reading, or thinking of a list of Top Ten Questions for a favourite author. For the more engaged, give them a daily writing challenge motivated by their reading. 

Pan Mac recommends:

Journey to the River Sea

by Eva Ibbotson

Book cover for Journey to the River Sea

A joyous Amazon adventure set in the lush nature of Brazil, Journey to the River Sea is filled with mystery and extraordinary characters.

Maia, an orphan, can't wait to reach her distant relatives a thousand miles up the Amazon. She imagines a loving family with whom she will share great adventures. Instead she finds two spiteful cousins who see the jungle as the enemy and refuse to go outdoors. But the wonders of the rainforest more than make up for the hideous twins and their parents, and when Maia meets a mysterious boy who lives alone on the wild river shores, she begins a spectacular journey to the heart of an extraordinary and beautiful new world.

A Poem for Every Day of the Year

by Allie Esiri

Book cover for A Poem for Every Day of the Year

Reflecting the changing seasons and linking to events on key dates – funny for April Fool's Day, festive for Christmas – these poems are thoughtful, inspiring, humbling, informative, quiet, loud, small, epic, peaceful, energetic, upbeat, motivating, and empowering! The collection includes 366 poems, one for sharing on every day of the year.  

Jenny Baldwin is an English Teacher and Founder of SHAPES for Schools. She has recently helped to develop the Author and Illustrator Academy featured on the World Book Day website and written several educational resources for Pan Macmillan’s children’s books.