A Rich Legacy: 50 years of Resources


by Karen Hellewell (National Executive Committee member)

From the early days, the mission of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups has been supported by various resources, many with the children’s voices at the centre – chosen by children, or by children in conjunction with adults, for children. This blog reveals this rich legacy of booklists and anthologies for all, from yearbooks and newsletters to online and video resources for the 21st century.  

The importance of the child’s voice has always been central to our mission and remains so today, enabling the development of a child’s critical sense in the books they choose to read, extending their resilience and increasing their self-confidence through discussing and sharing their favourite books with their peers and with adults.

Books For Your Children was created by Anne Wood in 1965 to respond to the demand from parents, grand-parents, schools and librarians for knowledge, information and the opportunity to discuss books that children of all ages could enjoy on their own and that adults could share with children. Booklists were quickly identified by the Federation as offering another way, which has always been free, of bringing favourite books across the age ranges and across genres to children and adults – picture books, books for early readers, books for young adults, non-fiction, comic books, poetry.  The voice of the children has always been central, particularly in the annual compilation of the Top 50 Pick of the Year from the Children’s Book Award, containing the top 50 children’s books as voted for by children and, of course, includes the Top Ten. Booklists have also been compiled over the years to celebrate and complement our major national initiatives: National Share-A-Story Month and National Non-Fiction November.   

Created for members and non-members and free (except for postage), each booklist is compiled by our volunteers, based on children’s choices and their experiences within their own book groups. Every age group and different genre in fiction and non-fiction has been covered and the lists are regularly reviewed and updated. The more recent lists can be downloaded from the web site – where you can see our most recent booklist, Fifty Favourite Books from the Last Fifty Years, created as part of our celebrations for our 50th anniversary in 2018. Comprising the favourite books over the last 50 years, as voted for by our children’s book groups and individual members, the list reveals some of the children’s books published since 1968 which have stood the test of time and are still enjoyed by children and adults alike today. We all have our favourites – do you agree with our choices

Keep an eye on our web site and watch out for our next booklist due to be published in Spring 2019, which will be available for download.

A less well-known resource bank first created in 1976 and running for nearly 30 years is that of our Anthologies.  Published roughly every 3 -4 years with the support of various publishing houses, but most particularly Hodder, the anthologies were created for fund-raising and in support of charitable activities abroad, and also to celebrate major anniversaries within the Federation.       

True to our mission, all the stories included in each anthology were tested by members of our children’s book groups. This testing, whether stories being read aloud by adults to groups of children or shared within the family, affirmed the importance of children’s voices in the selection process, empowering them and giving them confidence.

Each anthology comprised a selection of favourites or newer stories, from traditional folk tales to modern tales, written by well-known authors and rising stars. With stories of varying lengths, each anthology provided a wonderful selection of stories to read aloud, share at bedtime or for confident young readers to enjoy on their own.  

Here is the full list and if you would like to know more read our book: 50 Years of the Federation – 1976: Stories for children chosen by parents for reading aloud, edited by Anne Wood, published by Hodder.

1986: Our Best Stories, edited by Anne Wood and Ann Pilling, published by Hodder.

1990: Stories Round the World, foreword by Thelma Simpson, published by Hodder for Story Aid, using stories tested by 21,000 children round the world.

1993: What’s for Dinner? published by Hodder – an anthology of favourite stories to celebrate 25 years of the FCBG.

1996: Simply the Best illustrated by Anthony Lewis, foreword by Pat Triggs published by Hodder to celebrate 20 years of NTASW (Now NSSM)

1999: Turning Points: Top Ten anthology celebrating 20 years of the Children’s Book Award.

2001: Up to the Stars, illustrated by Alan Marks, this poetry anthology was published by Hodder, tested by children and schools.

2002: Out of This World published by Hodder.

2005: You Can’t Bring That in Here foreword by Pat Thomson, published by Random House, a collection of funny stories.

The strength of the Federation lies in the diversity and enthusiasm of its members and book groups. This has been celebrated over the first 50 years in our publications for our members: initially as comprehensive Yearbooks and then also as newsletters.

Both the Yearbooks and newsletters provide fascinating snapshots of the activities and initiatives of children’s book groups across the UK and across the years, packed full of ideas for events that still resonate today.  The Yearbooks were a compilation of group activities and guest articles from publishers, authors, librarians and members, running from the 1960s until the late 1980s. Well supported by publishers these were very popular. The newsletters are still published today, complemented by a monthly electronic UpdaTED for members only. Usually published 2 and sometimes 3 times a year, the newsletters are sent out to book groups and other members and are used in recruitment and for publicity.

Celebration of our 50 years gave us an opportunity to create more resources for book groups in the form of two sets of six display boards.  Part of the generous sponsorship from the Ragdoll Foundation, these display boards encapsulate the last 50 years and celebrate the achievements of the Federation in terms of our major national initiatives and our charitable work beyond the UK.

The display board commemorating the 50 years summarises the growth and development of the Federation from the first Books For Your Children in 1965 to 2018 and is available to all book groups for events and can be seen at our national Conference and other national events.

The Ragdoll Foundation also sponsored a book celebrating the history of the Federation. Each member should have their own copy, to learn how the Federation grew organically from Books For Your Children into our national charity, about the development of our national initiatives and the myriad ways in which our groups have changed the reading landscape of children’s books. The launch in London at Foyles enabled many members, past and present, to celebrate with Anne Wood the variety and diversity of the adventure of the last 50 years. Federation members have brought Story Sacks to local hospitals, taken books to Zambia and to Cape Town townships, helped found Seven Stories and Book Aid International and much more…but that is the subject of another blog!

If you would like to receive a copy of the book please contact the National Secretary at 1 Oakwell Close, Stevenage, SG2 8UG or call 0300 102 1559 or e-mail info@fcbg.org.uk  Please note there will be a postage charge.

All our booklists are free but there is a postage charge or they can be downloaded.

Finally the Federation has embraced the era of digital resources and YouTube, with our own channel showing videos of the Award Ceremony of the Children’s Book Award, of the Federation itself with interviews with our Founder and Honorary Presidents, and of the work carried out with schools in the more deprived areas of the UK as part of the annual Jean Russell Storytelling Project.

Keep an eye on our web site as resources for all our major initiatives: NSSM, NNFN, CBA and the Jean Russell Storyteller Project are regularly uploaded and updated.

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