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Welcome to WhatFredRead, a blog for people looking for book recommendations and reviews for young children. I am the mum of four young children (all under 7years of age) and I have been finding getting reviews of books to read for this age category increasingly difficult. Partly I think it's due to a snobbery around children's literature, with toddler lit in particular seen as too 'low brow' to deserve or merit review. ( My argument would be, there's still 'good' and 'bad' early years books, it all deserves appraisal). Sadly, from autumn last year, The Guardian online ceased to publish its children's literature reviews and no longer updates its children's books site: This was a fantastic resource for children's literature fans, I was a huge fan, and yes, they valued a spot of toddler fiction too. Fondly missed. 

Without going into too much of a tirade, government cuts have seen local councils squeeze the life blood out of public services and local libraries have borne the brunt of this squeeze: As a new young mum I spent half my week in our local library; it's where I first attended baby groups, where I first made 'mum' friends, where I first felt part of our community. Our library now operates on a skeleton service, with only the leanest of staffing models. The appetite and need for the services provided here remains: opening for two hours on a Saturday morning, there's always a queue running along the library concourse outside. With demand so high, hours so short, staff so stretched, there's no time for such niceties as the children's lit reviews pinned to the walls anyone (though my stoic local library always puts on a great entrance display). Worse, still, the university where I work happens to specialise in children's literature, and yet there's no widening participation links, no sense that the academic ivory towers want to stoop as low as recommending a bit of modern day preschool to the public. I happen to live near two well known literary centres for children (entrance fees are exuberant at best...surely children should 'go free'?!...and don't get me started on the cost of live theatre for children (£16 a ticket!)- why are we continuing to see literature and theatre a past time of the privileged. And as I'm on my soapbox...The cheap online bookshops ( which have their place) tend to push rather than review books, and cheap high street book shops 'recommend' all! The more expensive high street bookshops push the expensive children's hardbacks first and foremost, usually titles tied in to new launches and events. Now I understand this, it is business after all, but we need to find a way of making books cheap, available to all, and media that encourages children to read, write, listen, draw and perform universal, and not for those who can afford it.   

My motivation to write this blog is not just political, but personal too. What qualifies me to review and recommend?- nothing really, and you'll note that the titles that tend to make it to the blog are ones I like in the first place (a 'celebration' some might say, not even a 'review'). Indeed this blog emerged as a New Years resolution to myself; I read to my children (nearly) everyday, and over the course of seven years I've built up a fair idea of what they like and what I like. (Children's literature is as much about what children like as what adults like reading to children, I've learnt). My fondest memory of my own mum, is her reading with me, and I love particularly love revisiting my childhood books and sharing them with my own children (so you'll find a lot of pre-millennium books on this blog). Although I work in an academic (ish) job, I feel I need to keep my mind from disintegrating completely to the level of my 18 month old day-in- day-out, and I find writing up this blog quite therapeutic. I've also got some ideas for my own children's books to write in the future, and this blog is a great way for me to gather research on what's out there, and what trends I identify emerging. It's maybe a piece of personal contemporary history too, capturing what we're reading in 2017, trying to archive some of these precious fragments of my children's childhoods, and what we're sharing together.

I can't, and try not to, comment on the educational value of children's books, as it's not my background and there are plenty of sites online that do that. I have however, learnt over the years that sharing a good book with my kids (any book in fact) brings so much pleasure to my everyday. It's also proving a really fantastic way to bond with my two youngest children, who came to our family via adoption. Talking about and sharing books is helping us to share our emotions and promote a fantastic healthy dialogue about family life and life in general. And on that note, children's literature can be so powerful, so influential. Writing for this new rising generation, writing for these small human beings who will one day determine our future, is quite a responsibility, and for that I really applaud children's book authors and illustrators for taking up this mantel. These literary stalwarts of today, the writers and illustrators for this generation, are much undervalued, under thanked, under appreciated in our society.Rather than critiquing their work, I feel grateful for it, and I hope that gratitude comes over in this blog.     

In terms of the logistics of reading to little ones, I tend to read three or four books in the morning with the youngest two, and one or two at bedtime with lots of rhymes. My partner and I take it in turns to read to each of the children, in groups or individually; we loose no sleep if we miss a few days reading, it's a passion, not a chore. In general though, reading with my children is the favourite part of my day, listening to my children read is even better; I can think of no greater pleasure than hearing the deepening voice of my children gain fluency and command over words. So yes I am celebrating children's books for young children, as these books have given me, and continue to give me, so very much, and this blog is my humble way of saying, thank you.  

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