It’s amazing where blogging can take you and 4.5 years after I started yesterday may well have been the best thing to happen to me as a blogger. I spent the whole of the day at the Booktrust HQ in London helping to choose the books that go into the Bookstart bags. It was a long, tiring day reading and discussing children’s books but it was also thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking and inspiring.

As we went around the room introducing ourselves at the start of the day I felt a little out of my depth there were health visitors, librarians, a CEO of a charity running children’s centres, even the person who started the Bookstart scheme. That’s some company! Then me, management accountant and dad blogger, no training in children’s education or experience of dealing with children in disadvantaged areas. But what I do have is 2 very important things; a huge passion for inspiring children to read and of course some very real experience of what small children like to read.

Bookstart book selection

I know that my experience of being a dad is a very sheltered one; we live a reasonably comfortable life in the Wiltshire countryside, the area is by and large white and while there are deprived areas nearby they aren’t ones where my children go to preschool etc. Being part of the discussions today with professionals who support some very different families has been fascinating. Beginning to understand some of the challenges they face and how the books we chose could help or hinder them as they support families. For example many books feature food but we had to consider whether the type of food could hinder a discussion about healthy diets etc.

It was also interesting seeing how people reacted to books, how their opinions varied to yours and how they may interpret a story differently. It also challenged some of my preconceptions about certain styles of book and definitely opened my eyes to some authors I would never have come across otherwise.

If your child is due to get a Bookstart bag at some point in the next year then there is a good chance I helped choose the books that went into it, I do hope you like them! Realising the consequence of the opinions I was sharing certainly focused the mind, for some children these could be the only books they have at home for most of their childhood so they have to be great ones.

However the one category that isn’t yet final was for the Bookstart Treasury which goes to 3-4 year olds, we’ve been asked to send in any suggestions we have as we couldn’t agree on a single book to submit. The funding for this category was reduced and Booktrust have had to go down from two books to one, picking just one book that meets the needs of lots of people is really hard! So if you have a book that you think every 3 and 4 year old in the country should read then let me know.

While I can’t of course share the books that made the final shortlist I did want to share a few from each category that I loved, ones that might be added to our collection some time soon. If you’ve read any of them already then let me know what you think.