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literature day

I can vividly remember back when I was in kindergarten, walking through the classrooms of my elementary school dressed in my Halloween costume. Halloween was pretty much the highlight of my life at the age of 5, and I remember snaking around the desks as we moved from one classroom to the next, with the older kids clapping.

I had no idea until I had kids of my own, that many schools don't allow costumes on Halloween anymore. At the school we used to attend, Halloween was just a regular day at school. No costumes, no parties, no special treats or games. 

Last year we switched to a new charter school in our area, and they have a great way of celebrating Halloween. They call it "Literature Day" and they have the kids dress up as a character from a book they are reading. The teachers dress up as well and rotate into each others classrooms throughout the day to read the book they have chosen. 

In the morning, they have a serpentine parade where all the kids line up outside and every class gets to walk around and show off their costumes while holding up their book. My favorite part was how ALL the kids were involved, from the cute little kindergarteners to the big eighth graders, they high-fived each other and cheered as each class walked by. Most of the costumes were homemade, pulled together from things around the house, and it felt so much nicer to me than the usual store bought character costumes you see on Halloween.

Bee wanted to be Pippi Longstocking. We adore the illustrations in Lauren Child's edition. We happened to have a striped shirt and some striped tights and I cut a few squares of fabric and pinned them to her jumper for patches. A stuffed monkey made a perfect Mr. Nilsson, Pippi's pet monkey. 

The hair is really what makes Pippi unique. We took a wire hanger and bent it straight, then parted her hair in the middle and braided each side around the wire hanger. (It's a little awkward to work around the wire but you'll get the hang of it.) Secure with rubber bands and cut any excess wire at the ends. Then bend the wire up on each side so the braids curl up. Since Bee's hair is brown you couldn't really see the wire hanger at all. We drew some freckles on her cheeks with brown eyeliner.

C decided to go as Harry Potter since we were right in the middle of Book 1 last Halloween. Luckily his cousin had a costume already and all we had to provide was the shirt. (No weapons are allowed at school, but I guess wands don't count?)

Do schools around the country still celebrate Halloween? I am wondering this "no costumes at school" rule is just in Southern California? I understand that not every holiday needs to be celebrated in school, but I think this is a great way to celebrate reading and Halloween at the same time. 

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Reader Comments (39)

I adore this idea! We are big fans of Lauren Child's illustrations at our house, and that edition of Pippi Longstocking has had many a read.
Happy Literature Day!

10.22.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjess

SO SO cute! I went as Miss Longstocking once, and I still think it is one of the cutest costumes out there. It's always nice to see kids getting excited about reading.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJocelyn Pascall

Oh, this brings back memories! Every year at my elementary school we had a Book Parade (we walked from the school to the public library and back) and I was Pippi in third grade. And Laura Ingalls another year of course, but I think every girl was Laura Ingalls at least once during elementary school! It really is a fun tradition...I love that your daughter's school coordinates it with Halloween.

At my daughter's school they aren't allowed to wear costumes during the school day, but after school there's a Halloween festival where the kids can put on their costumes, play games, etc. and then have a little teacher-led parade around the neighborhood. They have banned costumes with weapons or gore though, which I suppose is appropriate if a bit paternalistic.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered Commenterhillary

We have dress as a character in a book day but they do it in the spring. No Halloween or fall parties here in Virginia. I do miss the good old days.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

a charter school by us assigns the kids historical eras to make their costume from, like medieval or civil war, etc. I like that they are trying something educational, but I think the book characters are perfect, promote education but still have a lot of flexibility.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbec

We don't do Halloween where I live in Texas. It's sad for me, because I thinks it's a great day for the kids. What your school does sounds like the perfect compromise!

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

When I was a kid in Texas in the mid-80s our school had something they called "Day of the Living Book." I don't remember if it coincided with Halloween, but we dressed up as a character from a favorite book, and I remember being Laura Ingalls and Anne Shirley. There was a parade and I think there was a whole school wide book festival going on with author visits and a book fair.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer O.

That is such a great idea! I love the Pippi costume... so cute!!!

I'm in Colorado Springs, and our kids attend/ed the largest District in town. They found a way to bypass the Halloween controversy by having Parent/Teacher Conferences fall on the Big Day, and they cancel classes so the teachers can meet parents in 15 minute intervals (yea, as if that worked).

That wouldn't have been my solution, but they work it.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLizA

I adore this idea! My children attend Catholic school and have a Saints Parade where they dress up as a favorite saint, followed by a Halloween party in their classrooms. I don't believe the public school children in our area of Illinois are allowed to celebrate Halloween. Pippi is a favorite of ours...the second-graders in our school read it every year and at the end have a "Pippi" day where they are allowed to dress as any character in the book. My girls were both Pippi, and most of the boys are usually Tommy, but we have had the occasional Mr. Nilsson, too!

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin

We did Literary Characters Day for Halloween at my school for many years - until the teachers got sick of it, actually. Now we do the Theme Parade for Halloween. This year is History, last year was Math and the year before that was Science. It's a fun tradition. The kids are so creative with their costumes! We have a big parade, hosted by our flamboyant art teacher, where all the girls (it's a girls' school), K-8, show off their costumes and say a bit about their inspiration. I love it.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrances

At most schools here in Saskatoon, SK, there are still Halloween celebrations but they are significantly toned down from what they were when I was a kid. There are some pretty strict rules about what's allowed, almost to the point of no fun, but there are still some good things. They mostly discourage treats and candy, mostly for medical/allergy reasons.

I know that some of the reasons it's toned down is because Halloween is largely a Christian holiday so there are sometimes issues with that. However, a large number of schools in Canada, particularly in urban centres, were finding that with the increasing number of refugees from countries where civil wars and untold horrors were witnessed by children, some activities no longer seemed appropriate or tasteful. Blood, guts, zombies and anything that could be potentially interpreted as 'violent' was nixed. Pirate has a very different connotation in Africa than in Canada, even though it seems innocent enough.

I think Literature Day sounds fantastic.

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCitricSugar

I live in a tiny Utah town and the elementary my daughter attends still lets the children dress up, have a parade, games/carnival, etc.. It is a lot of fun! I'm glad my children will grow up with the memories (just like you)!

10.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Sherman

Terrific idea.

10.23.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdianne

Swedish Pippi!!! Good choice.........

10.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy Snowflake

yes, a great alternative/way to celebrate dress up and literature. love it!

10.24.2012 | Unregistered Commenterlulu and family

Schools here (NC) do not celebrate Halloween and costumes are not allowed. I have heard of other schools that do Literature Day instead and I think that is a wonderful compromise. What kid does not love to dress up?

10.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I live in France. We don't celebrate Halloween here, but when I was in school we used to dress up for "Mardi-Gras"! :)

Lovely costume by the way! The wire hanger is such a clever trick!

10.28.2012 | Unregistered Commentersilk

We had dress up as a character day too at our charter school in GA! The kids loved it! My 3 year-old even wanted to get into the action and wore her lion costume for morning carpool. :) Yes, a great idea and a wonderful way to make learning fun. Charter schools rock! :)

10.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Where I live in Washington they don't do costumes or parades at school, but it seems to be up to the teachers if they want to do something. In kindergarten they had a harvest party and this year they are having an end of month party with pumpkins and candy. I have good memories of dressing up for Halloween at school, but I also haven't missed it as much as I thought I would and my daughter still really excited for Halloween. I love that Literature Day twist, though.

10.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

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