World Book Day

World Book Day was a world away from this time last year. There was no dress up in your favourite character but instead a story with a script made up entirely by us.

As stories go, the start was gripping with a massive plot twist. A small classroom of Sylvanian families, who had been enjoying a quiet lesson in school/on the sofa, suddenly found themselves thrown into a back pack and hurtling at speed towards a wild and rugged beach. It's an oh so familiar story to our own home ed journey and it made me smile.

From there the plot went downhill fairly rapidly. It mainly consisted of Wren screaming for what would have equated to about five pages worth of book. Most readers would have given up by the end of page 1 and I very nearly did.

However, the best books can take a little while to get going and that was certainly the case with ours. We stopped at the beautiful Barricane Beach for a short while, where Wren continued to voice her discontent while Jenson happily buried pirate treasure.

I tried to encourage him to write a story but the only thing I could get out of him was the word TEN. Although just three small letters I was so impressed that he had written them without any help from me that I didn't think to ask why he had written the word in the first place. Apparently it's because I keep telling him he is a size 10, i.e. all the clothes I have bought for him of late have been for 9-10 year olds.

The plot was still moving pretty slowly by this point so I suggested a change of scene and we continued our walk into Woolacombe.

As miles of golden sand stretched out before us I could feel our story come to life. The iffy start was soon forgotten about as the two lead characters charged onto the beach. It set the scene for the next six hours.

Chapter 1 set out the main plot: I asked Jenson what story he wanted to write in the sand and he said The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This is the first story he was ever able to recite off by heart and I remember the first time he insisted on reading it to me for his bedtime story. He got a wow voucher at school the next day for it.

And he recited it again to me brilliantly today. There were a few interesting food additions such as a panini but it only made the story better. 

Given I had no page to work within and no margin I was most impressed with just how straight my lines were! It was a super nice twenty minutes or so that really bought home the meaning of World Book Day. There we were, on a deserted beach, carving letters in the sand as Jenson plucked a story from his head. It was about creativity, make believe and imagination and Jenson's was as wide as the horizon in front of him. There were no limits. The story went as follows:

There was an egg on a leaf.
In the morning the egg started to move
and a hungry little caterpillar popped out.
He ate cake, cherry pie, cheese, 5 oranges, 6 strawberries, a lollipop, a sausage and panini.
Then he got tummy ache.
He ate a big green leaf
and then he felt much better.
He wasn’t little anymore, he was fat.
He made a cocoon.
He stayed inside it for 2 weeks.
Then he was a beautiful butterfly.
— Jenson

Wren then made up a little story of her own, a bit of a sub plot if you like. It was beautiful and very Wren. It went as follows:

Miow is not very well.
She misses her Mummy.
Mummy came back.
And Miow was happy.
— Wren

When I thought of this story in the sand idea back in Cheltenham last week it never occurred to me that people would then read it. I guess that's where Chapter 2 begins.

The pair of them were so content playing together it left me with plenty of time to sit back and relax.

I very quickly became aware of our sand story and the impact it was having on the other beach goers. Some would stop to read it. Others were so engrossed in their own stories they simply walked right across it without even noticing it. It wasn't just a story about a little caterpillar anymore but a tool to help us think about everyone's stories. I explained this to Jenson and he acknowledged the point I was trying to make.

We watched all sorts of different stories unfold, from ones about young families just starting out on their exciting new adventure...

...to ones where the characters were perhaps coming to the end of their life adventures and had great stories to share.

We watched surfers make the long walk over the sand to the wild sea beyond to catch that one wave that they would no doubt regale stories about to everyone in the pub that evening...

...to dog walkers with their four legged friends.

We listened to the dog's side of the story...

...and watched people searching for stories from the past.

Some people were able to look up and listen to our story...

...while others were simply too focused on their own stories to notice the words beneath their feet.

Generations of one family were able to come together and share their own stories with ours.

It really was beautiful to watch. Our book had suddenly come to life and was bursting with different characters, each with their own agendas. You could layer it up as much as you like but I preferred to simply take the occasional photo. The result is something of a study about people's interactions both with themselves and with our sand story.

And all the while the children played. That was the underlying plot The beach is an escape like no other, much like a good book is. One can get so engrossed, captivated even, that one simply can't put it down. That's how our day felt, a far cry from how I felt at the end of page 1 this morning.

Trying to keep this kid in the classroom is like trying to contain the hulk, but he's not one of a kind. Most of his friends would kill to spend days like this rather than be cooped up inside a poky classroom. Damn the government for making parents feel like they can't educate their own children. This is what kids do in Finland day in day out and we all know how they turn out.

The beach is an open book and how apt that we should spend World Book Day on it from 9.30am to 3.30pm. Watching Jenson on the beach today, with so much energy and enthusiasm to explore and express himself, was compelling. A classroom is no place for children like him. 

It was inevitable that our story was to conclude at the same place as it began: on the beach. I had a very romantic notion that it would be great to watch the sea wash our story away. I had worked out the tides and roughly guessed. I was pretty spot on too: 6.45pm. Although there were only a few metres to go before the advancing tide would swallow our story, light wasn't on our side and nor was Jenson's mood. I tried my best to see it out though and Wren was with me till the bitter end. Armed with the torchlight on my phone and some fighting spirit she proved herself as the heroine.

As with every good book, the ending always leaves you wanting more. That's definitely how we all felt this evening. Jenson even asked if we could write another story tomorrow. I've never seen him enthusiastic about books before, and knowing my son, I doubt very much whether dressing up as a character from a book would have really done it for him in quite the same way. He loves a hands on approach and this clearly captured his imagination. In my book, my approach to World Book Day really worked for us. As I strapped the children into the car, I felt a deep satisfaction knowing that our story had already been washed away and we were ready to start a brand new adventure tomorrow.