Children’s Books Ireland and BookTrust Northern Ireland team up for cross-border book-gifting project

September 2022
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Children of Tullygally PS, Craigavon, explore their Free To Be Me Little Library
The pupils of Tullygally PS, Craigavon, explore their Free To Be Me Little Library

In a context where communities have too often been defined by what separates them, rather than what brings them together, two organisations are working to build understanding through a shared love of reading.

Launching in Tullygally Primary School, Craigavon, a collaborative book-gifting project from Children’s Books Ireland and BookTrust Northern Ireland will see eight primary schools north and south of the border have their library shelves stocked full of new books. These ‘Free To Be Me Little Libraries’, each comprising 100 high-quality, expertly-chosen titles, celebrate the value of diversity and allow young readers to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

To help pupils and staff explore their new library, each school will receive copies of Children’s Books Ireland Free To Be Me: Diversity, Inclusion and Representation reading guide, stickers, bookmarks and classroom materials, and an accessible edition of the guide.

Free To Be Me materials

About the project, Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, said:

“These Free To Be Me Little Libraries are packed with excellent books which represent the richness and diversity of modern Irish society. As an all-island organisation, we’re delighted to work with our partners at BookTrust Northern Ireland to bring stories with diverse and representative characters into primary school classrooms from County Waterford to County Down. We often say that books act both as mirrors and windows, so that a child can see their own lived experiences reflected back to them as well as being able to step into another person’s shoes and see things from their point of view. Not only are these books a joy to read, they can help to build up children’s self worth and their ability to empathise with others.”

Chris Eisenstadt, Director of BookTrust Northern Ireland, said:

“At BookTrust, we believe all children should be able to reap the life changing benefits that reading and sharing stories can bring. Different stories connect with different children so it’s important that they have access to a wide range of diverse and inclusive books so whatever their age, interest, reading ability or background, they can find a book that will capture their imagination and inspire them to keep reading. We’re delighted to be partnering with our friends at Children’s Books Ireland to ensure these fantastic and engaging books reach children on both sides of the border. Reading together with children all the way throughout their childhood can have a profound impact on their health, wellbeing, creativity and education and we’re thrilled that a new generation of primary school children in Northern Ireland will benefit from this valuable support.”

Kirsty Andrews, Principal at Tullygally P.S, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to receive the books from Children’s Books Ireland and BookTrust. These books will enhance the growing collection we have got from donations received from parents and staff. The new books will certainly engage the children and support our efforts to improve children’s reading and therefore their literacy skills. Reading is something that we are very passionate about in Tullygally P.S as it gives the children an opportunity to escape to another world. I would like to thank the literacy co-ordinator Mrs Montgomery for taking the time to apply for the books, they will certainly be appreciated.”

Participating schools

Glenahulla NS, Cork

St. Molaga's SNS, Dublin

Scoil Chaoimghín/St. Kevin's N.S., Co. Tipperary

Our Lady of Mercy SNS, Waterford

Scoil Chlíodhna CNS, Co. Cork

Tullygally Primary School, Armagh

Kilcooley Primary School, Down

Ebrington Primary School, Derry

This project is funded by the Irish Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media as part of the 2022 Co-operation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme.