Children’s Books Ireland launches school libraries campaign with Ryan Tubridy
‘Libraries are a marvellous democratic tool: by being inclusive, open to all, they tend to equalise an otherwise very unequal society and are a force for social justice.’
Siobhán Parkinson, inaugural Laureate na nÓg
Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) is making two announcements about ways in which it is working to improve Irish children’s access to books and launching its campaign in support of school libraries on 6 March 2019, the eve of World Book Day. Since the Department of Education’s abrupt withdrawal in 2008 of the €2.2m grant for school libraries, many schools have struggled to meet their students’ needs in relation to reading materials. CBI’s Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries project attempts to address this critical issue by donating four libraries to schools island-wide in 2019, augmented with Patrons of Reading and training for students and staff, a holistic programme worth approximately €40,000 in total. Four schools in Dublin, Tipperary, Derry and Belfast have been announced, with the first library launching today in Dublin by Ryan Tubridy and author Dave Rudden, the school’s new Patron of Reading. CBI is also partnering with University College Dublin and the School Library Association in the Republic of Ireland to launch a survey to gather comprehensive research on school libraries and the needs of schools in relation to books.
In 2017 Children’s Books Ireland launched the Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries, a book gifting programme for schools in memory of the organisation’s late patron and friend, a critic, teacher and champion of children’s literature. Over two years, CBI has received close to four hundred applications and has learned of an overwhelming need for books in schools. Many libraries are stocked with dated, tatty, unsuitable books and some newly-built schools with dedicated library spaces have no books on their shelves. In numerous schools, teachers buy books with their own money, and cannot cater to the needs of students who use English as an additional language or who have learning difficulties.
The School Libraries Survey is now live and will give a clear indication as to the needs of schools today so that CBI can better advocate for the necessary support to ensure that every child in Ireland has equal opportunities to discover the joy of reading and all its associated benefits. Research has shown that reading for pleasure improves mental well-being, increases vocabulary, builds literacy and numeracy skills and is the strongest indicator of success at school and beyond. A lack of school libraries hits areas of socio-economic deprivation hardest – these are the children that we should be endeavouring not to leave behind. A lack of school libraries is also particularly problematic for schools in rural areas, whose pupils will have more limited access to public libraries.
Elaina Ryan, Director of Children’s Books Ireland said ‘Children’s Books Ireland’s vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life. We know that many homes do not have books and many families don’t have a culture of reading. By failing to support vibrant, well-stocked, well-managed libraries in our schools, our government is denying the children of Ireland their right to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and to an education that affords them the best chances in life. The school libraries survey will show us how best to support schools in need.’
Ryan Tubridy said ‘I’ve always been a huge believer in the power of books and reading to change lives. The fact that there’s no funding earmarked for schools to buy books or requirement for schools to have a library feels like a missed opportunity as we have such a powerful literary tradition. Today, I urge all schools to fill out this school library survey and tell us what the circumstances are like for the children in your school.’
Children’s Books Ireland is proud to announce the four schools which have been chosen to receive the Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries in 2019. Each school will receive a library worth almost €8,000, plus a Patron of Reading, training on use of the library, CBI resources and print material to guide students in their future reading worth €40,000 combined.
The winners are:
Gortnahoe National School, Tipperary with Paula Leyden as Patron of Reading
St Paul’s Nursery and Primary School, Derry with Myra Zepf as Patron of Reading
St Genevieve’s High School, Belfast with Sheena Wilkinson as Patron of Reading
St Raphaela’s Secondary School, Dubin with Dave Rudden as Patron of Reading
Support for the Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries is gratefully received from the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency and The Educational Company of Ireland. We would also like to thank the Dunbar family, as well as all publishers who generously donated books: Cois Life, Gill Books, Little Island Books, The O’Brien Press, Bloomsbury Publishing and Walker Books. Children’s Books Ireland is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.