Don't judge a book by its costume

Written by Erica Salowe, Researcher

Edited by David Gaffney, Partner

Good morning, My voracity for reading began at the tender age of 12, with Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight, I sheepishly admit. Please don’t judge me too harshly; we all start somewhere. Thankfully, my tastes soon evolved from sparkly vampires as I sorted through all the genres my public library had to offer. From the Depression-era historical fiction of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, to unnerving dystopian novels like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, my formative years were enriched with the written word. In an age dominated by social media and other digital distractions, I believe it is more important than ever to help young people discover the joy of losing themselves in a book. That is why I wholeheartedly support the mission of UNESCO’s World Book Day, which aims to put a book in the hands of every child and young person around the globe. Each year, the charity provides some 15 million young people with tokens that can be redeemed at local bookstores for free or discounted books. Today, children across the UK will celebrate World Book Day by attending school dressed as their favourite characters. At face value, I love this novel idea that allows parents to flex their creative muscles and bring their children’s storybook pages to life. But I also wonder if the enthusiasm to buy or design the perfect costume is obscuring the original intention of this scholastic celebration.  With Argos, Sainsbury’s and ASDA selling everything from Ravenclaw to Peter Rabbit merchandise, the mass commercialisation of costume hype has turned World Book Day into another annual opportunity to make tills ring. Children’s author Marianne Levy has recalled how she met a parent who had spent £50 on costumes for her children, but had not bought them a single book. Levy also highlights  the recent move by Marks & Spencer to accept World Book Day tokens in its stores, to the detriment of local bookshops which were originally the intended beneficiaries. New research from the National Literacy Trust has also revealed that children are reading less, with only 26% of those aged 18 or younger dedicating time each day to reading. Worryingly, just 53% of kids have reported that they enjoy reading, which is the lowest rate since 2013. You can’t judge a book by its costume, so this World Book Day I hope we can find a way to reignite in children a passion for the protagonist, rather than the polyester.


King’s College Hospital in London is on partial lockdown after two patients tested positive for coronavirus. In a Manchester hospital, one patient was also reported to have caught coronavirus and health officials are now concerned about the potential for outbreaks to occur in hospitals. NHS trusts have been ordered to carry out thorough checks for patients in intensive care. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the former UN chief and Peruvian prime minister, has died at the age of 100 in his home in Peru. Pérez de Cuéllar had an illustrious career in the UN, with some key achievements including brokering a peace agreement between Turkey and Greece in 1974, negotiating a ceasefire in Iraq and Iran’s eight-year conflict in 1988, and mediating Namibian independence from South Africa. With 36 new reported cases of coronavirus reported in Britain yesterday, parliament may be suspended for up to five months under a mooted plan to prevent MPs from spreading coronavirus across the country. In what would be the longest summer recess on record, MPs could rise for the Easter break on 31 March and not return until September.

Business and economy

Europe’s largest regional airline, Flybe, has collapsed into administration. Flybe had operated nearly 40% of UK domestic flights, and was a leading carrier at the Belfast, Southampton, Birmingham and Manchester airports. Flybe’s owner, Connect Airways, pulled the plug one week before it could have received a £100m government loan to bolster its finances. Despite publicly announcing he would step down next year, Credit Suisse chairman Urs Rohner has apparently been speaking to investors about extending his term beyond 2021. Rohner reportedly spoke to top shareholders weeks after chief executive Tidjane Thiam was forced out of his position over a spying affair. (£) The private hospital company NMC Health, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, has apologised to its staff after it postponed the payment of wages until the middle of March. The company’s shares have been suspended since 27 February due to confusion surrounding ownership of the business and its debts. Salary payments are already more than a week overdue.

Columns of note

In The Guardian, Stephen Buranyi is convinced that, despite our best efforts at containment, the point of isolating coronavirus has passed now that 67 countries have confirmed over 8,000 cases. Although the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has announced that vaccine trials could begin as soon as April, it will take at least a year to complete trials and scale up production. Buranyi highlights why funding of the research and development system is too slow to begin research on new threats and too quick to stall once a pandemic dies down. He recommends a programme with long-term vision like the Norwegian Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which studies diseases like coronavirus even when there is no current outbreak. In The Telegraph, Janet Daley speculates that Joe Biden’s kindness and history of familial tragedy would make him the toughest adversary for Donald Trump, who she says gained the presidency on a platform of bullying. After the Super Tuesday results in the Democratic nominee process, Daley predicts that Bernie Sanders is out of the running and Biden is a shoo-in; however, she believes even if Biden wins the nomination, he is unlikely to beat Trump. Even so, a Biden loss is better than a Sanders loss, in which the Democrats would be trapped in an ideological hole that could damage its electoral credibility for a long time.

Source: The Telegraph


What happened yesterday?

Stocks in the US jumped 4% following Joe Biden’s string of Super Tuesday democratic primary victories. Healthcare stocks prospered particularly, leading the market with a 5.8% increase with health insurers Cigna and Anthem gaining 11% and 16% respectively. Investor confidence also rose after the US House of Representatives agreed to fund an $8 billion spending package focused on managing the coronavirus outbreak. Central banks and governments are showing signs of coordinated policy response to the coronavirus, and Europe has exhibited gains since the Federal Reserve cut half a percentage point from its main policy rate on Tuesday. The S&P 500 finished on a 4.2% rise and the Stoxx 600 gained 1.4%. The Kospi rose 2.2% in South Korea after its finance minister announced offsetting the coronavirus outbreak with a spending plan of nearly $10 billion. The FTSE 100 closed with a 1.45% rise to 6815.59, and the FTSE 250 ended the day gaining 0.31% to 19742.83.

What's happening today?

Finals Admiral Arcontech Group Aviva CLS Holdings Dairy Farm Intl Dominos Franchise Brand Gresham House GVC Holdings Headlam Hong Kong Land Holdings Ld  IndigoVision Intu Properties ITV Jardine Mandarin Melrose PageGroup Premier Oil Schroders Spire Healthcare

Spirent Tyman Interims Kier Origin

Q4 results


AGMs Jersey Electricity Shoe Zone

UK economic announcements

(09:30) BBA Mortgage Lending Figures Int. economic announcements (13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US) (13:30) Continuing Claims (US) (15:00) Factory Orders (US)

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

Did you know?

The first one gigabyte hard drive sold in 1980 for $40,000 and weighed over 500 pounds. Today, a 1 gigabyte drive costs under $3 and weighs less than one ounce.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons Oral questions International Trade (including Topical Questions) Business Statement Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg General debate International Women's Day Adjournment WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - Bob Blackman House of Lords Oral questions Effectiveness of the Crown Prosecution Service in prosecuting cases of rape - Baroness Gale Improve health outcomes for lesbian, bisexual and trans women - Baroness Barker Level of compensation received by sub-postmasters as a result of the Horizon accounting system litigation, as compared to the losses those sub-postmasters incurred due to Post Office Ltd’s policies - Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Supporting the Gambling Commission to address problem gambling - Lord Beecham Debate Role of the BBC and public service broadcasting to the UK’s economy and creative culture - Lord Young of Norwood Green Educational opportunities available to children and young people from working class backgrounds - Baroness Morris of Yardley Scottish Parliament First Minister’s questions Stage 3 proceedings Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill