I don’t like reminiscing about my school years. Studying was easy for me, but going to school was a joyless obligation, and school textbooks left me wondering if that’s all there was to read and learn. Is it possible to make studies fun and exciting? Can you teach a child to love and respect books? Yes, you can. “Book Day” is one of the activities that can help achieve this goal.
In the week before Lent, there are carnivals, celebrations and fun and this is the time traditionally chosen by English teachers for the Book Day – an excellent end to all the activity.
The junior and middle-grade students of the International School of Paphos (ISOP) can’t wait for Friday; this is the main topic at lunch and in lesson breaks. Teachers are also preparing – they will need both patience and a sense of humour on this last day before the short holidays. Carnival Week is a time for fun and making new friends.
The bell rings, the next lesson starts and students from the middle and high school come into the kids’ class. Children are introduced, divided into pairs and the older students let the kids choose a book from the class library (yes, each class in primary school has its own library with age-appropriate books) and begin to read.
They read quietly, trying not to disturb others. Sometimes they stop, explain something, at times they laugh together, exchanging impressions, so later it’s not surprising to see a 12-year-old boy carefully helping a baby from kindergarten on the break. The books’ characters are gently brought to the forefront of the educational process. The children carefully make their personal “reading rivers”: art compositions on a sheet of A3.
The centre of the composition is the “River of Life”, and on its banks there are the books the child has read, remembers and loves. Older children make models of the “Stairway to Heaven.” Indeed, our life is a long climb and book often helps us overcome the next step or prevent us from falling. Adult students become writers and publishers: they create stories, write small artworks and illustrate them as a book with a title, and the author’s name on the cover.
The tension of joyful expectation increases for the highly anticipated Friday, when there is Batman, Harry Potter, Cinderella, Princess, Pirates, Dementors, Firemen: a full set of wonderful characters from favourite children’s books. Yes, of course, it can be tiring for the teachers and the parents who need to find a costume of their child’s favourite character, but it’s worth it and the day is filled with happy laughter, and the school filled with energy.
From early in the morning people unpack boxes of books in the library. Books are ordered in the UK, directly from publishing houses and wholesale book companies, so on this day students can buy books much cheaper than in stores. Yes! I completely forgot! Entrance to the school in carnival costume costs 50 euro cents or any book for the library. It’s fun to watch the kids intently giving their coins to the teachers. They know that the money will be used to purchase new books. Of course, this is only a small part of the library funding, but the children will be so glad to see new books standing on the centre shelf in the library after the holidays.
These are their own books, bought with their own money. They will grow up and move on, but these books will remain for new children who will take their place. In the meantime, “Book Day” goes on. The bell rings again, and students run out on their break, but then a maths teacher comes in with an extravagant hat with the letter Π and a badge of a hanging cardboard calculator and slide rule, and it’s impossible not to laugh. The school is neither hard labour nor routine, and the teacher is not a supervisor. During the lessons the books are actively discussed – what kind of characters were in the book, who is the author, the essence of the story and why they particularly liked it.
And, of course, we cannot forget the school library where the ever helpful Natasha is always on duty. Teachers arrange a time slot and lead classes here. There is a vote for the best costume and gifts, applause, laughter – and BOOKS! Returning home from school, my eldest daughter, Ksenia, cries:
“Daddy, what a pity that such a beautiful holiday is over.”
“Don’t cry. There will be many more! Study well, read more, and every day will bring you amazing discoveries filled with fabulous adventures of heroes from your favourite books”.