IT is supposed to encourage a love of reading but World Book Day has turned into a nightmare for many parents and teachers who now find themselves cobbling together elaborate and expensive costumes of characters like the Cat in the Hat, Harry Potter and Pippy Longstocking for children instructed to dress up to celebrate the event in school.

Schools are increasingly asking pupils to dress up as their favourite literary character for the event - held on Thursday just gone - which is now in its 20th year and partly funded by publishers. But some are now opting for a different approach in response to gripes from fed-up parents that it is a stressful, expensive waste of time that does little to promote reading. For many, it is just another version of Hallowe'en or Red Nose Day, with parents encouraged to spend money on costumes.

One Glasgow primary school eschewed dressing up this year in favour of a trip to the Mitchell Library to listen to a children’s author read from her latest novel, while others encouraged children to bring in their favourite book.

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One Glasgow teacher - who asked not to be named for fear of being labelled a 'Grinch' - said: “World Book Day has become a pay day for high street chains. Teachers and children are expected to dress up at their own expense. It would be nice to be able to concentrate on literature instead.”

But many schools have kept up the tradition, leading furious parents to complain about the headache of World Book Day.

Ben Young, 50, from Shetland, who is father to Lily, 10, and Conrad, nine, said: “The approach of World Book Day fills me with dread every year.

“Conrad was in tears because Where’s Wally just wouldn’t cut it and he said he’d rather not go to school than have to go in his uniform. He dismissed suggestions of Harry Potter as too obvious, James Bond as age-inappropriate, while Tom Sawyer was stupid. In the end, the day was saved when my wife pulled out a battered top hat from the cupboard and suggested the Artful Dodger.

“Our local Asda and Tesco do well out of WBD as well as about three other dressing up days a year. I’m not convinced it encourages children to read or to appreciate books. Most glean characters from TV versions of books.”

Sandra O’Donnell, from Falkirk, is mother to David, 16, and Thomas, 13. “I used to hate it. I was always the mum shoving my boys out the door wearing their football kit and trying to explain they were Roy of the bloody Rovers. They had no idea what I was talking about.

“Naturally, they would only announced at 7.30am that it was World Book Day and they HAD to wear fancy dress to school. Of course, the stay-at-home mums had been planning it for months and their kids would be dead ringers for Voldermort or Ron Weasley. I wanted to trip the smug supermums up as they strolled into the playground. They couldn’t wait to get home to upload the pictures on Facebook to make the rest of us feel even more inadequate.

“I have no idea why World Book Day has to become World Fancy Dress Day. Parents really do have other things to do and spend money on than an overpriced, probably highly-flammable outfit that will be worn once.”

Blogger Donna White, 43, from Linlithgow, who has two sons, Brodie, 10, and Blake, eight, said: “Many parents send their school dressed as whatever they like, but Star Wars costumes are hardly connected to books – more to films and games. The whole message about what the day is about gets lost.”

Company director, Mairi Breen, 49, from Uddingston, is mother to Katy, 14, and Euan, 12. “I’d grab whatever was in the drawers that would fit any character. One year Katy went as Pippi Longstocking from the Astrid Lindgren books because we happened to have some striped football socks. She didn’t have a clue who the character was and neither did her teacher.”

Not every parent hates the day, though. Actor Astrid Azurdia, 47, from Glasgow’s West End, mother to Sonny, 10, and Stella, eight, said: “Our school is quite laid-back and there are lots of creative parents. We raided the dressing up box. Sonny wanted to be a zombie survivor from The Zombie Survival Guide and Stella wanted to be Captain Hook, so it was easy and fun.”

Mother-of-four Elaine Hunter, from Perthshire, who runs the yummymummybeauty.com website, said: “It’s a fun thing for children to do and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. But I do think there are better ways to encourage reading.”

Graphic designer, Jayne Cahill, from the Borders, said: “I got stressed and spent a fortune last year so insisted my two girls use their imagination. After a good rake through their wardrobes, we had more fun and money left over to spend on books.”

Amina Shah, Director of Programme at Scottish Book Trust, said: “We believe books, reading and writing have the power to change lives and welcome any activity that encourages reading for pleasure.”