Building Reading Communities 2021-2024

June 2024
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ECAR: Reading Communities, Galway

Back in 2021, Children’s Books Ireland launched our Every Child A Reader: Reading Communities project, funded by the RTÉ Toy Show Appeal in partnership with the Community Foundation for Ireland. After three wonderful years, this June 2024, sees the end of our most ambitious project. 

Over the lifetime of this three-year project, four primary schools each received a library of over 1,000 books for their school libraries and worked with a dedicated Champion of Reading (an author or illustrator) on projects and initiatives to inspire a love of reading and storytelling across the whole school community.

Since 2021, Children’s Books Ireland have worked in: 

  • St Joseph’s National School, Dundalk with illustrator Tarsila Krüse
  • Scoil Chroí Íosa, Galway with author Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
  • St Brendan’s National School, Westport with illustrator Kim Sharkey
  • Scoil na Croise Naofa, Cork with author E.R Murray

Following the launch of the project, each Reading Community school worked on fun projects and engaged in workshops with their dedicated Champion of Reading to foster a love of reading in their classrooms and beyond. The children's voices were prioritised and together students embarked on several exciting projects such as reading passports, school newspapers, scavenger hunts, bookmarks, poster and zine making as well as creative writing sessions.

The Every Child A Reader programme focuses on the young person and throughout the three years of 'Reading Communities', Children's Books Ireland worked closely with students to ensure this project was as student-led and thus as beneficial as possible in each school. We believe, that centring the students adds a richness to these projects and ultimately, will make these programmes more successful by virtue of giving the children and young people we work with a leading role in our decision-making.

The books gifted to the schools during this time, were chosen mainly by students through surveys and suggestion boxes, supporting their interests and tastes whilst allowing room for them to discover new authors and genres. The children conceptualised, voted and developed the projects they wanted to work on, while their Champion of Reading helped them bring their ideas to life and their love of reading to the surface. 

Read some more about each Reading Community school below. 

St Joseph’s National School, Dundalk with Illustrator Tarsila Krüse

Since 2021, Tarsila Krüse has been working with 4th - 6th class students helping them to progress in reading as well as fostering a love of reading for joy! During this time she hosted creative writing workshops and led projects such as bookmark and zine making, all helping to inspire creativity amongst students. Visiting artists such as Sadhbh Devlin, Alan Nolan, Juliette Saumande, Máire Zepf and Shane Hegarty also joined Tarsila's classes helping to strengthen the connection between the books students read and their in-class experiences.

'As the programme comes to an end, it is clear that the children have become more enthusiastic about reading and stories. They now feel more comfortable sharing stories and what they want to read and ask for more time in the library. The staff's support has also been growing and critical in fostering the children's enthusiasm.'

- Tarsila Krüse

St Brendan’s National School, Westport with illustrator Kim Sharkey

For this project, illustrator Kim Sharkey worked with the students of St Brendan's N.S to give them the full understanding of the power and joy of reading. The children and their interests were always at the centre of Kim's project plan as she arranged Q&A sessions with fellow authors and a publisher to teach students how books are produced. From monster doodles and bookish activity fairs to the introduction of a library reward card, there werel lots of activities and projects to support young readers. Throughout this time, Kim also helped to create an outdoor reading area combining the students love of nature with their growing love of reading.

‘I can see the children’s confidence in their own creative minds growing through the access and engagement to the books, the insight to the creation of a book and the agency in their hands of this project. I can see that the access to this long-term creative engagement has instilled an inner trust and I’m sure we’ll have planted positive seeds for these children going forward.'

- Kim Sharkey

Scoil Chroí Íosa, Galway with author Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Working with students of Scoil Chroí Íosa, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald helped create a brilliant, new library space and outdoor reading areas for children to take some time out with their new books. Based off engaging workshops and interactive sessions, Sarah supported students in designing their very own book called 'We Are Readers'. This book features lots of top tips, guidance and great interviews to support young readers continue their love of books into the future. It's one of hundreds of new books which now sits on the shelves of Scoil Chroí Íosa's new library. 

With the teachers, Children's Books Ireland and our library project, we have been able to create a reading environment that will nourish and support joyful reading among all the children in this school - now and in the years to come. What a privilege to have been part of such an important mission, helping every child to experience the joy and empowerment of books and reading.

- Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Scoil na Croise Naofa, Cork with author E.R Murray

With different advisory groups over the 3 years, from all class groups from 1st to 6th, Elizabeth was able to implement engaging projects for her Reading Community school to ensure a fun and beneficial programme for all. During this time at Scoil na Croise Naofa, all activities were student-led and Elizabeth worked with students to create and print The Holy Cross student newspaper, implement storytelling sessions and World Book Day festivities as well as creating a library space. Elizabeth led engaging character workshops and even worked with fellow writer and illustrator Alan Nolan on comic book workshops for students groups to make and read their very own collaborative comic books. 

'I’ve always been a strong believer that books can change lives, and over the last three years, I have seen proof with my own eyes. By the end of the project, the children felt like books belonged to them and they had the confidence to choose books and share opinions. The positive impact on self-esteem was wonderful to witness and I am confident that the school will continue to encourage a love of reading for pleasure.'

- E.R Murray 

The Reading Communities: Every Child A Reader project was funded by the RTÉ Late Late Toy Show Appeal and the Community Foundation for Ireland in September 2021.