#RightToBeAReader: Children’s Books Ireland calls for reinstatement of school library fund

Pupils of Catherine McAuley NS raise their voice for the reinstatement of the school library fund. Back row:Dylan Pedreschi , Chloe Priest and Jack Carroll Front: Sisters Sophie and Megan Taylor

A new campaign, launched today by Children’s Books Ireland, has called for the reinstatement of the primary school library fund, which was abolished in 2008. Without this fund, fewer children have ready access to excellent, modern books. At a very basic level, all schools require a wide range of texts to order to deliver on the aims of the primary language curriculum, which calls for ‘a consistent engagement with a rich selection of the best literature appropriate to his/her stage of development’. Many schools have had to rely on donations to provide an essential resource. New schools are being built with a library space provided but no funding to fill it.

Allocating €10 for every primary school child in the country to help schools buy books for their libraries – including audiobooks and picturebooks – means a Budget 2022 allocation of only €5.68m. This modest investment can open up a lifetime of possibility and excitement for children.

Why reading matters

A vast body of evidence shows that reading is linked to an array of positive outcomes: reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education, and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background. Reading has also been linked with improved mental wellbeing, which is crucial as society recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.

The OECD has said ‘all the students who are highly engaged in reading achieve reading literacy scores that are significantly above the international mean, whatever their family background’.

The Government-funded Growing Up in Ireland report from the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin found that ‘among older children, self-directed reading and taking part in structured cultural activities outside school time contribute to cognitive development (in terms of both verbal and numeric skills) as well as to academic self-confidence’.

All the research supports the positive impacts that reading can have – and the types of books children read matter, too. Books act as mirrors and windows, reflecting a child’s own reality as well as giving them an insight into the lives of others whose culture and point of view may be different from their own.

For more information, see our campaign leaflet here. Irish version here.

What can I do?

There are lots of ways to make your voice heard – and every voice matters.

Contact your local representatives now to ask for their support in advance of the Budget in October. You can do this by email, on social media, by contacting their constituency office or by writing a letter. You will find a template letter below which you can copy and paste, edit as you see fit, or feel free to write your own.

Dear Senator/Deputy/Minister,

I am writing in support of Children’s Books Ireland’s Right To Be A Reader Campaign. Until 2008, funding was available for primary schools to stock their libraries with new books. These books not only supported the curriculum but encouraged children to read for pleasure, which evidence shows has positive impacts on literacy, numeracy, academic self-confidence and mental wellbeing. Reading sparks a child’s imagination and provides a means of escapism during tough times such as these.

However, the school library fund was cut in 2008 and has never been restored. As a result, fewer children have ready access to excellent, modern books. Many schools have had to rely on donations to provide an essential resource. New schools are being built with a library space provided but no funding to fill it.

This year we can change this – by restoring the fund in Budget 2022. Allocating just €10 for every primary school child in the country to help schools buy books for their libraries – including audiobooks and picturebooks – means a Budget 2022 allocation of only €5.68m. This modest investment can open up a lifetime of possibility and excitement for children.

Yours sincerely,
Your Name

Spread the word – tell the world why school libraries are important using #RightToBeAReader and tagging Children’s Books Ireland on your preferred platform. Visibility for the campaign is important, and we appreciate everyone’s support.

Share the #RightToBeAReader campaign on:

Facebook : @childrensbooksireland

Twitter: @kidsbooksirl

Instagram: @kidsbooksirl

Thank you for your support. Together, we can ensure every child’s right to be a reader is recognised in Budget 2022.