Last Saturday at the Story museum in Oxford, the OCBG committee turned up wearing silver, to celebrate the Oxford Children’s Book Group’s 25th anniversary. There was also a lot of gold to mark the FCGB’s 50th, so we had a ‘double whammy’ and twice-as-blingy reason to party!
There were all the ingredients needed for a birthday party: gold and silver balloons, bunting, crafts, dressing up opportunities in the Museum’s talking throne room, Fairy Fizz to drink, and crisps, popcorn and cake! Most of the children (and grown-ups) made their own gold and silver crowns to wear, and decorated golden treasure chests with jewels, because, I am sure we would all agree, a great book is like a valuable, much-loved and often-hoarded treasure.
The OCBG was delighted to welcome, as a special guest, former headteacher and author Neil Griffiths who enthralled us with his story about Itchy Bear. Neil is the original inventor of Storysacks, which have figured large in our group over the last two years, because we have already made and donated over 45 Storysacks to our local JR Children’s Hospital school, and we are told that the young patients love learning with them!
We were all mesmerised by the golden-themed King Midas story, written and read by award-winning author of over 175 children’s books, and long-time member of OCBG, Geraldine McCaughrean. Local author-member, Cas Lester, then entertained everyone with her series of books about the naughty Fairy Nixie.
The prolific children’s punster and poet, John Foster, who was a founder member of OCBG, was invited to help fellow founder member, Moira da Costa, cut the huge and stunning birthday cake, which displayed the three logos which OCBG has used over the last quarter of a century.
Following the lively and interactive Dinosaur rap, John read a poem which he had written especially for the occasion: THE FEDERATION RAP
THE FEDERATION RAP
Come on everybody take a look
There’s a child over there with her head in a book
She reads in the car. She reads on the bus.
If you try to stop her reading she causes a fuss.
She’s surrounded by books and by people who say
Read as much as you like. Read all day.
For her parents belong to the Federation
That promotes reading across the nation
She’s a pile of books beside her bed
And when every one has been read
She’ll vote for the one she thinks is best
The one that stands out from the rest
That she thinks deserves the reward
Of the Federation’s Children’s Book award.
She reads all day and she reads all night
When you think she’s asleep, she will switch back on the light.
Her favourite place is the library
Where she can borrow books for free.
She’s one of the younger generation
Who has been inspired by the Federation.
Come on everybody take a look
There’s a child over there with her head in a book.
(reproduced with his permission- thank you, John!)
Altogether, we had over 80 people come for the afternoon, including five members of the FCBG executive, Chris Routh, Denise Lawrence, Karen Hellewell, Julia Miller and OCBG’s own Louise Stothard. Some families were just visiting Oxford for the day, and the Story Museum for the first time. One mother said, “We had no idea this was happening and feel very lucky to have chosen today to come- what a great bonus this has been.”
One member reported: “the children loved the visit and remembered all the stories on their return. Our daughter’s friend was blown away by the whole event having never experienced anything like it. The crafts were fun, the cake amazing, the storytellers and rap brilliant.”
So, thanks to the generosity of the Story Museum and the committee’s hard work, it seems the party was a good way to celebrate the last 25 years of regular and special events, through which we have reached out to thousands of children, to encourage them to read and to love stories and books of all kinds. Bringing children and books together is always worthwhile, so here’s hoping that we can keep going for another 25 years….?!
Jackie Holderness (Chair OCBG) with grateful thanks, as ever, to the OCBG committee members: Florence Benfeghoul, Moira da Costa, Erica Davis, Mary Roberton, Fay Sinai, Jo Steele, Harriet Steele (possibly the youngest Committee member in the country?), Louise Stothard (FCBG Executive for NSSM).