Saturday 11th November dawned bright and beautiful, if a little chilly, as we made our way to Sidcot School, ready to welcome all the delegates for our one day non-fiction conference. Months of wondering, worrying and preparing – and the day had finally arrived!
National Non-Fiction November is the perfect time to celebrate all things factual so a one day conference seemed like a really good idea. Sidcot School generously agreed to let us use their beautiful Arts Centre for the day which made a fantastic setting for our event.
Heather from Reading Rocks had arrived the night before and not being distracted by the amazing array of books she had brought with her was a real challenge, but as the publishers began to arrive and set up, there was plenty to do! Nosy Crow, Hachette, Walker, bsmall and Magic Cat were soon ready, brimming with tempting examples of the very best factual books on offer.
There was a lovely atmosphere as delegates started to arrive and enjoyed chatting to the publishers and Heather, browsing the books, having a warming cuppa and meeting up with friends old and new. Soon, 10 o’clock arrived and we were ready to begin.
The first of our fantastic speakers was Isabel Thomas, author of many books. Her passion for science and nature is inspiring and her talk was a real treat. She spoke of the importance of helping children to make connections, inspiring their imagination and developing their creativity. She talked about how the brain spikes when it encounters something new, encouraging individuals to discover and question, and how to encourage children to see science as a subject which might lead to future possibilities. We were all disappointed when her talk came to an end as she was fascinating!
After holding a two minute silence for Remembrance, it was tea break time. This was sponsored by ‘Kay’s Incredible Inventions’ and we had the most delicious cupcakes! We challenged the delegates to take the most inventive pictures they could come up with, featuring both book and cake, which caused much merriment! The winner received a signed copy of the book.
After a cuppa, a cake and plenty of book-ish chat, everyone returned to the auditorium to hear from Heather and the many ways in which Reading Rocks supports teachers, schools, children and parents in sharing the best books available.
Next, Andy Seed kept us entertained, starting with a (light-hearted!) rant about the term ‘non-fiction’ which caused plenty of discussion. He spoke passionately about the joy of ‘factual’ texts, how they engage readers and the varying styles and appeal of information books- he gave everyone plenty to think about as well as a glimpse of his latest ‘Interview with a…’ book.
Lunch followed- with another competition. Andy came with a companion- an Egyptian coffin- so we asked for selfies with two signed copies of ‘The Curse of the Tomb Robbers’ on offer!
After lunch came the publishers’ presentations. What a treat to hear about so many gorgeous information books in a mixture of in person and video presentations. The books were on available in the bookshop for everyone to have a closer look at and enjoy at their leisure.
Our final speaker of the day was Nicola Davies, who drew on her own early experiences of factual books to illustrate the importance of images and allowing children opportunities to develop their visual literacy by decoding pictures, tables, maps… She argued a strong case for not dumbing things down for children and allowing them to explore non-fiction by ‘skipping and dipping’, going back and forth in a book as a child leads and sharing a special reading experience where adult and child are co-learners, discovering things together.
Nicola kindly drew our raffle for two places on a Non-Fiction webinar, generously donated by CLPE. The winners were delighted! More books, browsing, buying, cake and chatter followed before everyone started to leave.
It was a lovely day and our wonderful publishers generously donated books which we will be taking to Charlton Farm, part of Children’s Hospice South West. A huge thank you from the Somerset CBG team to them, our amazing authors, Sidcot School, Reading Rocks, CLPE and members of other FCBG groups who came to support. See you next year..?