Ardú chroí: Children’s Books Ireland’s 2020

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us and for Children’s Books Ireland it’s been an extraordinarily rewarding one too. As the year draws to a close, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on all we’ve achieved over the past twelve months and to thank our members, donors, partners and funders for supporting us along the way.

We recently published our new Strategic Plan for 2020–2023, which outlines the vision, mission, aims and objectives, and values of our organisation. Our first strategic aim is to inspire and enable more children and young people to become readers for life, and the crucial first step in achieving that is to provide access to books. This year, with the support of our partners, we gifted over 18,000 books to children and young people all over Ireland. Children’s Books Ireland champions every child’s right to discover and develop a love of reading and, through our book-gifting initiatives in 2020, we have provided that opportunity to children and young people in schools, homeless services, direct provision, the Travelling Community, hospitals, and to babies in mixed-catchment areas.

Casting our minds back to a time before Covid-19, in February we launched Small Print: a pilot programme encouraging a love of picturebooks in Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare settings. The fifty selected early years settings received ten excellent picturebooks, posters and a resource pack drawing on the principles of early learning and development and the themes of Aistear. The project yielded hugely positive results. The evaluation revealed that 92% of participants reported that the picturebooks stimulated the children’s imaginations and 65% reported increased confidence in their skills for reading with children after using the Small Print picturebooks and resources.

In March the government announced the first national lockdown and while families stayed home through the Spring, we commissioned work from twenty-eight Irish artists to create the ImagineNation playbook in partnership with An Post. The playbook was a showcase of our best artists and a quality publication to help children get creative with reading, writing and drawing at home. Conscious of the digital divide, ImagineNation was posted to 85,000 homes, reached 115,000 families through The Irish Times on Easter Saturday and was sent with art materials to a further 15,000 children in direct provision centres, hospitals and homeless services thanks to support from the Community Foundation for Ireland. In a further bid to bring the joy of reading and creativity into the lives of families in lockdown, we rolled out the The Any-Book Book Club, full of fun things to do with whatever books are at home, no printer needed.

Our second strategic aim as an organisation is to support artists who create stories for children and young people and one of the ways in which we do this is through our annual children’s book awards. 2020 was the first year of a three-year partnership with our new headline sponsor, KPMG. This year’s KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards was interrupted by school closures shortly after our shortlist announcement in March, but was moved online to celebrate our winners and bring the children’s literature community together, at least virtually. Thanks to support from Ecclesiastical Ireland, we had the resources to produce videos and Zoom visits took place in lieu of sending artists into schools. We trained all the artists to self-record and found new ways of paying artists, like having guest judges for the weekly KPMG Reading Hero competitions. We hosted the awards ceremony online so that we could recognise the brilliant achievements of the shortlisted artists and the award winners’ reactions were captured on video. If you’re in need of lift, we strongly recommend watching that here.

In May we welcomed our new Laureate na nÓg, Áine Ní Ghlinn – our sixth children’s Laureate and the first who writes exclusively as Gaeilge. Her stated ambition as Laureate is to lift the cloak of invisibility from Irish language writing for children and you can view her inaugural lecture here. The lecture was filmed in MoLI – Museum of Literature Ireland in late November, supported by the Arts Council and in partnership with Words Ireland as part of Dublin Book Festival 2020. In late November the Arts Council also announced that the term of the Laureate na nÓg is extended from two years to three with an increased stipend of €50,000 per annum, bringing it in line with the Laureate for Fiction and the Chair of Poetry. This parity of esteem and recognition was warmly welcomed by the Laureate na nÓg, Children’s Books Ireland and the children’s literature community.

Projects Books Make Things Better Reading Guide

Our third strategic aim is to share our expertise and enthusiasm with adults who influence children’s reading. One of the ways we can reach the adults who guide children’s reading is through our publications and this year we produced not one but two recommended reading guides. In September we published Books Make Things Better, supported by the Arts Council for Culture Night 2020. The guide highlights books for children of all ages by Irish authors, illustrators, translators and publishers, giving a much-needed boost to a sector that suffered greatly this year. The guide is free to download and was sent to bookshops all over the country along with posters featuring the original campaign artwork by Oliver Jeffers. The guide was reprinted to support the sector again on reopening for Christmas after the second national lockdown.

In October we published Mind Yourself: The Mental Health and Wellbeing reading guide in partnership with ISPCC Childline and Jigsaw, and featuring original cover artwork by Tarsila Krüse. Produced during a year in which the mental health of our young people needed special care and attention, this guide serves as a resource that can be used by adults – parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers – to support and educate young people in relation to mental health and wellbeing. It contains reviews and recommendations of over 400 books for children and young people from birth to age eighteen and is designed as a ‘first-aid kit’ for worries, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and any number of feelings that a young person may want to explore. 24,000 copies were printed, and the guide was distributed to every school and public library in Ireland.

Despite the restrictions that came with the pandemic, our Book Doctors were busy in 2020. They prescribed books to children and families all over the country at twenty-six Book Clinics, twenty-four of which were virtual. The Book Doctors also used their expertise to assist us in producing themed reading lists and there are now over 30 of these available on our website, covering  themes including grief, diversity and inclusion, and first experiences.

We rounded off a busy year on a high. Being chosen as one of three partner charities to benefit from the inaugural RTÉ Toy Show Appeal with the Community Foundation for Ireland was a huge endorsement of our work and the ardú chroí we all needed. The funds raised through the appeal will help us bring the joy of reading to children all over Ireland and takes us one step closer to our vision: Every Child A Reader.

Children’s Books Ireland nurtures an ecosystem that is vital to children’s reading, and we work in partnership with like-minded people and organisations towards our shared vision. We would like to sincerely thank our members, partners, funders and donors for all their support in 2020. In addition to the 365 schools we worked with this year, we would also like to acknowledge the charities and organisations who worked with us to get books into the hands of children and young people all across Ireland. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.


  • AIB
  • Amal Women Association
  • An Post
  • Arts Council of Ireland
  • Arts Council of Northern Ireland
  • Aster Family support
  • Baboró International Arts Festival for Children
  • Ballyboden Children’s Centre
  • Barnardos
  • Bedford Row Family Project
  • Belfast Children’s Festival
  • Blue Box Creative Arts Therapy Centre
  • Blue Skies Initiative Clondalkin
  • Book Trust Northern Ireland
  • Bord Bia
  • Branar Téatar do Pháistí
  • Brothers of Charity Services Ireland: Kerry Intervention & Disability Services
  • Brown Bag Films
  • BUMBLEance
  • Business in the Community
  • Business to Arts
  • Cairde Beag Community Creche
  • Cairn Homes
  • Children and Young People’s Services Committee – Wicklow, Laois & Offaly, Limerick &. Clare, Kildare, Meath, Louth
  • Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin
  • Children in Hospital, Ireland
  • Children’s Grief Centre
  • Citi
  • City of Dublin Educational Training Board – educational service to prisons
  • Clann Resource Centre
  • Clare Haven Services
  • Clare Local Development Company
  • Coolmine Therapeutic Community
  • Cope Galway Family Support Services
  • Cork North Community Work Department/HSE Social Inclusion
  • County Kildare LEADER Partnership
  • Crosscare Migrant Project
  • Culture Ireland
  • Culture Night
  • DEAR Ireland
  • Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Foreign Affairs
  • Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
  • Depaul
  • Disney Ireland
  • Diversity Sligo
  • Donegal Travellers Project
  • Doras
  • Dublin Book Festival
  • Dublin City University
  • Dublin UNESCO City of Literature
  • Dubray Books
  • Eason, Department 51
  • Ecclesiastical Insurance
  • Ecclesiastical Movement for Good Award
  • Education Authority Northern Ireland
  • Eglinton Accommodation Centre
  • EURead
  • Family Friendly HQ
  • Fingal County Council Arts Office
  • Focus Ireland
  • Gaisce – The President’s Award
  • Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture
  • Good Shepherd Cork
  • Google for Nonprofits
  • Gutter Bookshop
  • HackettFlynn Publisher’s Agency
  • Health Service Executive, Public Health Nursing, Limerick
  • Hodges Figgis
  • Inner City Helping Homeless
  • International Literature Festival Dublin
  • InTouch magazine (INTO)
  • Involve Letterkenny
  • Involve Youth Services
  • Irish Copyright Licensing Agency
  • ISPCC Childline
  • Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland
  • Jigsaw
  • JP McManus Benevolent Fund
  • Kildare Children and Young People’s Services Committee
  • Killarney Immigrant Support Centre
  • KPMG
  • Laois & Offaly Education and Training Board
  • Laois Partnership: Social Inclusion Programme
  • Le Chéile: Limerick Mental Health Association
  • Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board
  • Limerick Libraries
  • Limerick Sports Partnership
  • Limerick Youth Service
  • Loughan House Open Centre
  • Louth Children’s and Young People’s Services Committee
  • Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
  • Meath Children & Young People’s Services Committee
  • MoLI – Museum of Literature Ireland
  • Mountjoy Education Centre
  • Moving Parents and Children Together (M-PACT)
  • Moyross Residents Forum
  • New Horizon – Athlone Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support
  • North Tipperary Development Company
  • Novas
  • O’Kennedy Consulting
  • Peter McVerry Trust
  • Pieta House and Limerick Social Services Centre
  • Places of Sanctuary Ireland
  • Poetry Ireland
  • Probation and Linkage Limerick Scheme (PALLS)
  • Rathkeale Youth Space
  • Respond
  • Rethink Ireland
  • Rick O’Shea
  • Riverbank Arts Centre
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Rotary Club of Newbridge
  • RTÉ
  • RTÉjr
  • RTÉ Toy Show Appeal
  • Ruhama
  • Salvation Army
  • Saoirse Housing Association
  • Schools of Sanctuary
  • Simon Community
  • Smurfit Kappa Foundation
  • Solas Project
  • Southill HUB
  • Springboard Family Support Project
  • St Michael’s House
  • Temple Street Children’s Hospital
  • The Bookseller
  • The Cavanagh Family
  • The Community Foundation for Ireland
  • The Glucksman
  • The Ireland Funds
  • The Society of St Vincent de Paul
  • Tipperary Rural Traveller Project
  • Toyota Ireland
  • Trinity Access Programme
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • Turas Springboard Family Centre
  • TUSLA
  • Twitter for Good
  • Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig
  • UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency
  • University College Dublin
  • Waterford City and County Council Arts Office
  • West Limerick Resources 
  • Wheatfield Prison – Education Unit
  • William Fry
  • Words Ireland
  • Young at Art
  • Youthreach Co. Limerick