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Couple continues to fulfil mission of encouraging youngsters to read with their beloved Chicken and Frog Bookshop

PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 September 2018

Natasha and Jim Radford of the Chicken and Frog Bookshop with children taking part in active sessions. Picture: Ken Mears

Natasha and Jim Radford of the Chicken and Frog Bookshop with children taking part in active sessions. Picture: Ken Mears

Ken Mears

If you're looking for the owners of the borough's only independent children's bookstore, then you may have to ask for Mrs Chicken and Mr Frog on arrival.

Natasha and Jim Radford opened the borough's only independent children's bookstore, the Chicken and Frog Bookshop. Picture: Ken MearsNatasha and Jim Radford opened the borough's only independent children's bookstore, the Chicken and Frog Bookshop. Picture: Ken Mears

Bookworms Natasha and Jim Radford, 44, have been bearing these nicknames thanks to the young visitors of the Chicken and Frog Bookshop, Ongar Road, Brentwood, since it opened back in 2012 and it doesn’t seem like that is going to change anytime soon.

“The names come from a terrible joke: a chicken and a frog walk into a library.

“The chicken says ‘book, book, book’ and the frog says ‘readit, readit, readit’”, Natasha laughed.

“The names are fun, we never asked for them, it just naturally happened through interacting with the children.”

Natasha and Jim Radford opened the borough's only independent children's bookstore, the Chicken and Frog Bookshop. Picture: Ken MearsNatasha and Jim Radford opened the borough's only independent children's bookstore, the Chicken and Frog Bookshop. Picture: Ken Mears

The “childhood sweethearts”, who are celebrating their 22nd wedding anniversary this year, bonded over their love of books when they first met at college and talked about the idea of opening up their very own bookshop for a long time.

So when Jim lost his job a few years ago, he and Natasha saw it not as a setback but as an opportunity to finally pursue their dream.

Around 18 months later, the newly opened store was doing well enough that Natasha could quit her job as a teacher and join her husband working at the Chicken and Frog Bookshop full-time.

Acting as a colourful environment for people of all ages to discover and develop their love for reading, the shop stocks more than 10,000 titles for visitors to choose from, everything from picture books to a small selection of young adult literature.

As well as the store itself, there is also a café, available tuition services and events which are regularly held to promote reading.

Over the years, it has become the pair’s mission to help youngsters read the books they want and not only the books others think they should.

Natasha explained: “The experience is similar to when Harry Potter characters go to Ollivander’s wand shop.

“In the same way every wand won’t fit every wizard, every book won’t fit every child.

“Parents, and often grandparents, will come in and say they’re buying for a kid who isn’t a big reader.

“A second later, they’ll ask for a challenging classic such as Heidi.

“They’re trying to push them into reading something that’s just going to sit on the shelves.

“If they [children] read what they like (as long as it’s appropriate), they are more likely to engage with it.

“But I do also think that it’s a good idea to venture outside your comfort zone from time to time, because you often discover something exciting and new.”

Natasha and Jim, who have three children, also want to encourage more people to shop locally, choosing the smaller independent shops over the big chain stores.

She said: “It’s important for people to support local businesses.

“If you don’t use it, there’s going to be nothing to use and they will disappear.

“Local businesses contribute to a sense of community and without them, we’d have a have a bland, soulless high street.”

The Chicken and Frog Bookshop continues to play a big part in the Brentwood community, connecting with families across the borough and will aim to carry on inspiring children to pick up a book and start their love of reading.

Natasha said: “There are so many positives about running a bookshop!

“From reading when it’s quiet and calling it work to meeting readers, authors and illustrators as well as working with other local businesses to provide events for the area.

“Even the simply pleasures like seeing children feeling comfortable enough to sit and read in the middle of the floor make me happy to run the shop.

“We love what we do and we feel very privileged to do something we are very passionate about.”

To find out more information about the Chicken and Frog Bookshop, visit here

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