Debbie at BBC Radio Gloucestershire

A Book is a Book (In praise of the Argos Catalogue) Former Readathon employee turned author Debbie Young is inspired by unusual World Book Day choices!

Wacky fancy dress costumes quickly go viral on World Book Day, and this year a boy dressed as the Argos catalogue hit the headlines.

“Well, it is his favourite book,” tweeted his mum, Vicki Bowles.

While some commentators sniffed disapproval, the story will have resonated with any parents who’ve ever had an Argos catalogue in the home.

No matter how many wonderful storybooks you provide, for children of a certain age, the Argos catalogue has almost magical powers. Entering its pages has the allure of the Narnian wardrobe, drawing you into a fantasy land where money is no object and you might have any or all of the toys you could wish for.

My daughter used to spend many happy hours browsing its pages, and I was fine with that, because it’s a stage I’d been through myself as a child. Although Argos wasn’t around in those days, my mum’s Kays mail order catalogue was much the same thing, except you had to wait for the postman to deliver your goods. I’d read the descriptions over and over again for the items I coveted, till I could practically recite them.

It didn’t stop me reading other books. It just added a new dimension to my literary canon.

It might also explain why I took to writing short fiction when I grew up, capturing a whole story in very few words.

While it’s easy for book snobs to be cynical about the suitability of catalogues as reading material, my years spent working for Readathon taught me that actually they’re absolutely fine.  

The important thing is that children are reading something.

Reading catalogues teaches them to associate reading with pleasure and empowerment – even if it’s only how to spell what they want to put on their Christmas list.

And of course a good leisure reading habit is well known to lead to happier, more successful and more fulfilled lives, for both children and adults, not only academically but in relationships and many other ways.  

That’s why Readathon’s excellent sponsored reading programme for schools allows participants to choose their own reading list.

While some children take naturally to reading what parents or teachers might choose for them, others find their own paths, and should be allowed to do so. I have Garfield to thank for my daughter’s reading fluency. She used to sleep with Jim Davis’s cartoon strip collections under her pillow. Mo Willems was another of her passions. Wry humour was the key that unlocked her enthusiasm – not the school’s Magic Key reading scheme.

So next time you’re taken aback by what might at first seem a child’s inappropriate choice of World Book Day costume, don’t judge – just embrace their individual approach.

As long as they’re reading, they’ll be just fine.

Debbie Young


A more detailed version of this post first appeared on the author’s blog here: