Free To Be Me Little Libraries

Free To Be Me: Little Libraries is a book-gifting project that will ensure that every child can see themselves reflected in a book as well as learning about the lives of others whose experiences and perspectives may differ from their own.

Photo of school children reading books at the launch of Free To Be Me

Children's Books Ireland work with various funders to gift a Free To Be Me Little Library to primary and secondary schools across the island of Ireland.

These libraries consist of books that showcase the richness and diversity of modern Irish society. The books included are taken from the Free to Be Me: The Diversity, Inclusion and Representation Reading Guide, featuring original cover artwork commissioned from illustrator Ashwin Chacko and contains reviews of over 360 books, expertly chosen for their excellence and representation of diverse themes and characters.

With support from KPMG, William Fry, Citi, The Community Foundation for Ireland, Aviva, MSD Carlow, MSD Biotech, The Ireland Funds, Greystone Funds, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media and private donors, primary and secondary schools have received a Free To Be Me Little Library of 100 books carefully selected from the guide alongside a high quality resource pack to further engage with these books. 

So far, over 144 schools across the island of Ireland have received a Free To Be Me Little Library, with over 14,700 books reaching 35,690 students.

A digital version of the reading guide, along with a primary and secondary school resource packs and colouring sheets, can be viewed or downloaded here.

In recognition of children's individual reading preferences, abilities and needs, an accessible edition of the guide has been developed, along with a database of accessible formats and translations in partnership with the National Council for the Blind of Ireland. 

'As a member of the LGBT community myself it was positively overwhelming setting up the library because I know our children of today will get so much comfort and education from these books. When I was in school there wasn’t any literature or representation of diversity of any sort and that made growing up a challenge at times. These books will have such a positive impact on so many young people and families.'

– Teacher at Presentation Primary Warrenmount, Dublin 8, recipient of Free To Be Me Little Library in 2021.

Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children's Books Ireland, said: 

‘Ireland today is more diverse than ever, a reality that is not reflected on bookshelves in many homes and schools. In launching Free To Be Me, Children’s Books Ireland aims to shine a spotlight on these “missing” stories, celebrating diverse perspectives and helping young readers develop positive self-image as they see themselves in a book. We want this guide to spark discussions at home and in school, to encourage empathy and build solidarity so that every child and family feels included and welcome.’

Each title in the Free To Be Me Little Libraries has been selected based on its characters, rather than its creators, and all titles are indexed under themes or tags that align to the Equal Status Acts 2000–2018 or protected characteristics of equality legislation set out by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

Tags include: Disability, Diversity, Families, Gender, Irish Language, Membership of the Traveller Community, Mental Health, Neurodiversity, Race and Ethnicity, Reading Challenges, Refugee Status, Religion, Sexual Orientation and Socio-Economic Status