Thirteen Eventful Years in the Life of a Children’s Book Group

Three friends from Reading set up the Reading Children’s Book Group as a result of meeting some of the National Executive of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups at the Hay Festival in May 2004. Two of them are still active members but the group has undergone lots of other changes in the intervening years. Here are some highlights:

Our launch event was a story telling tent as part of the local Children’s Festival in May, starting a long tradition of working with the festival and other local partners to maximise potential reach. It was also the first of many story corners organised at local events.

We held a competition to design a lion logo based on our name Getting Reading Reading (GRR) and the fact that Reading has a big association with lions. This was the winner.




We held the national launch for NSSM with Jacqueline Wilson and a then relatively unknown Malorie Blackman at Reading University.

September saw the first Roald Dahl Day celebration. We held an activity session (with wormy cake) at Reading Central Library – the start of a very fruitful partnership with the children’s librarians there.


Templar provided a pack to hold a Dragonology event – we made an amazing “hand scale” dragon wall hanging which was donated to a local primary school.

We arranged our first author events at local schools. Among our early visitors were the two Steve’s and Geraldine McCaughrean.

Over the years we have welcomed many other authors – either during the school day or as evening public events at schools or other venues and even once at Reading FC. Authors have included: Guy Bass, Chris Bradford, Alan Gibbons, Julia Green, Mary Hooper, Jim Kay, Sophie McKenzie, Rick Riordan, Darren Shan, Justin Somper and Mark Walden.

Reading Library hosted the local launch of Top Ten voting for the RHCBA with illustrator Lynne Chapman. We formally became a testing group following two years of helping with the Top Ten voting. Our local Education Library Service provided storage for the books and also supported us more generally. Sadly they closed in 2016, and very kindly Reading Central Library offered to provide storage.

This was the first time our children took part in the CBA winners ceremony in Birmingham – here they are with winner Sophie McKenzie.

At the end of our first testing year we held our first big book sale. Local author Holly Webb came along to talk about her books. Every year since then we have had book sales to raise money to help bring authors to Reading. Some of these have been in individual schools and others for a wider audience, including the local SLA meetings. We also donate books – back to the schools and families who have voted and to other local organisations working with children.

November saw the very first National Non-Fiction Day. We hosted the national launch with illustrator Martin Brown and paper engineer Nick Denchfield, who both ran events in local scools

Over the years our member schools and families have been lucky enough to be invited to events at local schools, in particular Leighton Park. Some of the authors we have enjoyed there are Kevin Crossley-Holland, the two Steves, Nicky Morgan and Neil Griffiths.

We arranged for the Gruffalo to visit Reading Central Library – as you can see he was very popular. An enthusiastic group of GRR members organised the annual FCBG conference at Bradfield College.




We ran a project to encourage primary schools in Whitley, a deprived area of Reading, to get involved by offering free membership of the group. We helped a group of local sixth formers organise two book sales as a fundraising activity in aid of another local charity ABC to Read.

We shared stories with Margaret Bateson-Hill at Battle and Woodley Libraries as part of the summer reading scheme. Fed Ted started having adventures with members of the group. Here he is having tea with some interesting friends at Battle library.




February saw the first Harry Potter night – GRR organised a very successful treasure trail round the library. In May we celebrated our 10th anniversary with Nicholas Allen, Mo O’Hara, Margaret Bateson-Hill and AF Harrold – and birthday cake of course.

As our contribution to Reading Year of Culture (YOC) we launched a monthly children’s book group at Reading Central Library. We also produced a monthly booklist based on the monthly YOC themes.
Anna Conomos visited us as part of the Jean Russell Storyteller project. She did workshops at a local school and took part in Whitfest.

In October we sponsored an event with Julia Jarman at Reading Museum as part of the YOC literature festival. We also organised a visit by Wendy Meddour to a local school as part of the same initiative.

Another enthusiastic group of our members (including some of the 2012 cohort) organised the FCBG national conference at the Oratory School.

The library book group celebrated NSSM with its first “field trip” to celebrate storytelling though pictures looking at the copy of the Bayeux tapestry in Reading Museum. In November the children celebrated NNFN at the Museum of English Rural Life.

We sponsored two author events with local authors Holly Webb and AF Harrold as part of the Reading Fringe Festival.

Come and visit Reading between 23rd April and 29th June to see our exhibition jointly curated with Reading University’s special collections to celebrate the FCBG’s 50th anniversary at the Museum of English Rural Life.

Comments are closed.