‘Celebrating 50 years of bringing children & books together’ in Reading

by Chris Routh (Executive Chair)

Over the last three months Reading Children’s Book Group has organised three special events to coincide with an exhibition at The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), which we co-curated with the University of Reading’s Special Collections.

Clucktastic Chicken Quiz 

The launch event was designed to be part of our group’s celebrations of FCBG’s 50th anniversary and also provided us with an ideal opportunity to thank many of the individuals and organisations we have worked with over the years. On the back of the entertaining strawberry themed quiz author Jo Cotterill organised for the annual FCBG conference in 2016, we invited her to create something similar for us but with a chicken theme this time. This was because MERL has recently installed some chickens in their lovely grounds and Kathleen Hale’s books about Henrietta the Faithful Hen are featured in the exhibition. Jo rose to the challenge and we all enjoyed an hilarious interactive quiz, which involved telling the best chicken joke, drawing a picture of Foghorn Leghorn from memory and answering questions based on a variety of stories featuring chickens. 

Spring Chickens Family Day

A few weeks later we were blessed with fabulous weather for the Spring Chickens family event organised by MERL to coincide with Reading Children’s Festival. Reading CBG was allocated a large marquee which we kitted out for storytelling and a table for colouring-in pictures of chickens and fabulous eggs. We also designed a special chicken-themed trail which led individual children and family groups around the gardens and into the museum. On completion, participations were rewarded with a raffle ticket for one of two books, specially chosen and signed for the occasion (Gaspard the Fox & The House with Chicken Legs). We ran four well-attended storytelling sessions and received over 40 entries for the chicken-trail raffle. Between the formal sessions many parents & children enjoyed sharing books together and voting for the books for young readers nominated for the Children’s Book Award.

Rabbits in children’s literature talk

At our final event, Prue Goodwin tested our general knowledge about rabbits and hares in children’s literature and then introduced us to some of the authors and illustrators who share her own passion for Leporidae. Many of the books are featured in the exhibition including Aesop’s Fables, Peter Rabbit, Little Grey Rabbit and Watership Down. But Prue also reminded us of Brer Rabbit, Miffy and The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan; and highlighted some more recent discoveries like Hare by Zoe Greaves, The Legend of Podkin One Ear and Wolfie the Bunny. A particular favourite was The Voyage to the Bunny Planet, a box-set of three small square books by Rosemary Wells – ideal for anyone who needs reassuring after a bad day. We were very pleased that members of Aldbourne and Oxford Children’s Book Groups were able to join us for the evening.

Final note

In spite of their success, it has been noted by Fed Ted that none of these events featured a 50th anniversary cake! We’re planning to put that right in September when we hold our annual celebration of Roald Dahl’s birthday at Reading Central Library. Watch this space!

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