It's that time of year again – Book Week - and my Instagram feed is filled with images of gorgeous kids in elaborate homemade and shop-bought costumes.
Later this week, my owns kids will pop on their costumes and I too will share an image of their smiling faces.
And all I can think about is the money that could've been spent elsewhere.
What you don't see is all the faces of the parents who have been scouring shops for red shoes or overpriced black-rimmed glasses. Or the parents who have been sewing on patches or sequins onto clothes or cutting eye-holes in cardboard boxes.
Then there are the parents who don't have time for any of that crap and instead have rushed down to their local shops and dropped fifty bucks on already made costumes. And the parents who couldn't give a damn about Book Week and their kids sit nervously in their school uniforms, while others parade around them.
Whatever parent you are, you've probably reached into your pocket for some cash to pay for something so your kids can walk around at school in what could only be described as one of the most boring parades of all time. Trust me, I have three kids all in school and have been to all of the Book Week parades and this year I'm opting to stay home and poke needles in my eyeballs instead.
And it's not just schools that engage in this madness, I've heard that some child care centres are now asking parents to drop off their toddlers in Book Week costumes. Good luck finding a green sheep costume in size tiny, guys. I feel your pain.
Before you get all "but books are important, reading is vital" on me, I know.
I've got nothing against Book Week. I think it's fabulous.
What I'm troubled by is the money spent on Book Week costumes and the pressure on kids to parade in front of their peers, teachers and parents. Not all kids feel comfortable being put in the spotlight and for them, the parade is scary and confronting, unlike books which let them create imaginary worlds around them to escape from their anxiety.
And before you say Book Week costumes shouldn't cost you any money then I know you're lying, because even the simplest of homemade costumes costs something and when you have three or more kids that adds up. Even if you have one kid it adds up.
Imagine if instead of pumping money into craft stores and costume shops we donated that money to literacy programs.
Or imagine if your kid's school used that money to upgrade its library or buy more books. Maybe the money could be put into a national fund to help financially support aspiring writers.
Instead of dressing up, kids could be creative in other ways – like drawing a picture of their favourite book character or writing their own story or doing some book illustrations or making a short video explaining why they like a book. Maybe each class could read out their favourite book to the school.
I don't have all the answers, I just know that watching a group of princesses, super heroes and Harry Potters walk around for an hour is not inspiring me to get out there and read more. And it's not inspiring my kids either.
Give them a project to do to raise money for those who don't have access to literacy and reading programs. Make Book Week accessible for all kids, rather than just those who can afford to buy a fancy costume or have parents who have the time and energy to make one for them.
Book Week parades just highlight inequities and put unnecessary pressure on parents and kids, rather than focusing on the joy of books and making reading accessible for all.
Next year, I'm thinking of taking my kids to a library and making a donation of our Book Week costume money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation instead.