#RightToBeAReader: Children's Books Ireland calls on government to urgently fund school libraries
In 2022, the Department of Education provided a once-off, €20 million ‘School Library Book Grant’ to primary and secondary schools in Ireland, ringfenced for the purchase of books to be read for pleasure.
Despite this, schools are still operating under a ‘scarcity mindset’, following fifteen years without sustained funding for their libraries.
Today, we have published data from our annual book-gifting application process, revealing the stark need for sustained public investment in school libraries.
According to CILIP, the UK’s library and information association, schools with fewer than 100 pupils should aim for a minimum base figure of 1,300 quality library books, with the basic recommended benchmark for larger schools approximately 13 books per pupil. The average primary school population in the Republic of Ireland is 180 students, which would call for 2,340 items. Secondary schools, which have an average of 578 students, would require 7,514 items. Of the schools that applied to Children’s Books Ireland in 2023, 65% had 500 items or less in their school library.
Less than 1% (3 schools) had a qualified librarian, while 75% of applicants said they source new book stock from donations from parents, guardians and other family members of their students. Despite the increasing diversity in Irish classrooms, 87% of applicants reported a lack of diverse and representative books on their shelves.
To address this need in Budget 2024, Children’s Books Ireland is calling on the Department of Education to:
- Invest €20m in Budget 2024 in books for children and young people to read for pleasure, building on the foundations laid in Budget 2022.
- Establish a National Advisory Group on School Library Provision to develop a National Strategy for School Libraries, with the key aim of ensuring there is a School Library and a School Librarian in all Primary and Post Primary Schools by end of 2024, as recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in its Reports on Leaving Certificate Reform and on Mental Health Supports in Schools.
- In the interim, expand both the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) Demonstration Library Project and JCSP Digital Library Service as an urgent national priority, as recommended in the same reports and as per the 2005 DEIS plan.
- Ensure that reading for pleasure is at the heart of the upcoming National Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Literacy Strategy, in order to increase motivation and engagement in children and young people of all ages.
How can I help?
- Write to the Minister for Education and your local representatives, expressing your support for these essential measures so that every child and young person can reap the benefits that come with a lifelong love of reading.
- Contact your local representatives and ask for their support. You can use our letter template below!
- Share our campaign on social media with the hashtag #RightToBeAReader.
I am writing in support of Children's Books Ireland's Right To Be A Reader Campaign, urging the government to provide sustained funding for school libraries in Budget 2024.
Schools welcomed the €20m investment in school libraries in 2022, but they are operating with a scarcity mindset following over a decade without sustained funding for their libraries.
With 43% of Irish families reporting that they have fewer than 30 children’s books at home, and only 15% of the Irish population of any age signed up as public library members, it is clear that the only way to equitably meet the needs of all students is through properly funded school primary and secondary school libraries, staffed by a qualified librarian.
This year we can change this. Investing €20m in Budget 2024 in books for children and young people to read for pleasure, building on the foundations laid in Budget 2022, can open up a lifetime of possibility and excitement for children.
I encourage you to lend your support in the Oireachtas to the Right To Be A Reader campaign, and to stand behind school libraries as we approach Budget 2024.