By Jo Fletcher 

Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds is the theme for the 2021 Children’s Book council of Australia’s (CBCA) National book week. This year, book week was be held August 21st to 27th.

With the CBCA establishment in 1945, came an annual book awards process to promote written books of high literacy and artistic quality for children – books that would be cherished and remembered for lifetimes by Australians. With these awards comes an Australian tradition that is celebrated from the time a baby enters their first childcare centre, to the day they leave primary school. 

Book week brings the magic of literacy and storytelling into the minds and hearts of children and adults every year, and it is a great way to instill a love of books, characters and authors in children. Along with Library’s all over Australia, most childcare centres and schools hold a variety of Book Week themed programs, including the famous Book Week Dress up day, where children are encouraged to dress as their favourite book character and share their favourite book with their classmates. 

While no one that ever went to an Australian school would forget book week itself, the date changes enough that by the time your child comes home and casually mentions, “oh yeah, it’s book week and tomorrow is dress up day”, mass panic would have already set in. 

Hot tips on being prepared for Book Week costume day next year:

  • Spend time with your child reading books. Before bedtime each night is a great time to pick a favourite story and character for dress up day! The beauty of Book Week is that there are no rules around what your child can dress as – thankfully.  Even better, with little time and even less preparation, with the abundance of costume shops online with fast delivery, should have you sorted.
  • Realise this will happen – every.single.year. Prepare ahead and keep your costumes packed away and safe – you can re-use these costumes again and again and they might come in handy for another panicked parent down the track. You could re-purpose them or upgrade them for Halloween, dress up parties or other celebrations.
  • Keep it simple – get block coloured clothing, and accessories – ears, tails, wings, masks, props. Much easier than trying to create a whole-body costume
  • Get crafty – after having children in day care and school for the last 16 years, I can speak from experience saying the home-made costumes win all the prizes!
  • Be authentic – It’s a little sad that most schools still have a ‘best costume’ award considering the divide in socio-economic status of families, and the obvious advantage some families have over others.  Spend time talking with your child about reading their favourite books and make dressing up a fun experience, not about winning prizes. They can even dress up at home!

The CBCA website has listed all of their award-winning books since 1970 on their website, so check it out for some inspiration. 

In keeping with this year’s theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds, there are some fabulous books particularly in the Eve Pownall Award Category, which are books with the intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style for children ages birth to 18 years old.  In addition to magical stories and tales of adventure for children, the CBCA supports children to learn about factual history and social themes.

Some of my favourites include books that can teach children about topics like social justice, diversity and Australia’s First People, like Young Dark Emu, Welcome to Country and Sorry Day, all of which have won the CBCA Eve Pownall award for informational books. 

Three finalist favourites to watch 

‘Who’s your real Mum” by Bernadette Green, which is an empowering story about a non-traditional family that celebrates what defines it – love. 

 “Azaria: A True History” by Maree Coote which is told from a Dingo’s perspective asks its readers to reevaluate the historical Chamberlain case, asking its readers to question expectations of justice, truth and scientific evidence and the importance of championing another’s cause.

 “Strangers on Country” by David Hartley & Kirsty Murray, which aims to inspire young readers to think about how all Australians today can learn from traditional Indigenous ways of thinking and doing. About how when we listen to and understand others, and work with people, instead of doing things to people, then we can all begin to adopt the wise ways of the past.

While some adults find subjects emotive in subject and theme, the children really engage with these books and as it is important to understand children are capable of understanding and learning these from a young age, it’s important we teach children fact, alongside fiction, and book week certainly provides for that.

Old Worlds, New Worlds, and Other Worlds certainly is a good choice for next year’s CBCA Book Week theme – get reading!