World Book Day, celebrated today, 7th March, has the declared aim: Our mission is to give every child and young person a book of their own.
It is celebrated in the UK, although I have no idea whether this is an idea that has been taken up elsewhere, and would be interested to find out.
Schools, in particular, seem to have embraced the idea, with children encouraged to attend classes dressed as their favourite book or literary character. Thus hundreds of Harry Potters and Willy Wonkas and Very Hungry Caterpillars march into schools across the country once each year.
A splendid thought!
Which brings me to a marvellous project aimed at schools across the country.
Growing, in a way, out of Robert Macfarlane’s brilliant book Landmarks is The Lost Words, a collaboration between Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris. I can do no better than to quote Jackie Morris on the reasons: It had come to the attention of some who work in the world of words that certain words were slipping out of common usage. As a result when it came to amend the junior dictionary for a new edition these words were gone… These words included bluebell, conker, heron, acorn and perhaps the one that cut the deepest for me, kingfisher.
So The Lost Words is aimed towards children, to encourage them, through the words and paintings of the book, to discover the natural world that so many of them know nothing of.
So many grow up today without any meaningful contact with the natural world, and this book aims to encourage them to know and to love and protect it.
And the project – the campaign, really, in a very ad hoc way, is to raise money where necessary to place a copy of the book in every school in Britain. It has already been achieved in Scotland, I understand, and hopefully, it will soon be achieved in every other school in Britain.