Together with Refugees: Refugee Book Reading Campaign 2021

Jane Mitchell launches the Refugee Reading Campaign at St. Peter’s Primary School, Bray, co. Wicklow | Photo by Maxwell Photography

Jane Mitchell, award-winning writer of books for young people, has launched this year’s annual refugee book-reading campaign in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR and Children’s Books Ireland. Organised each year to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June, the campaign is an opportunity for children and young people to read some of the extraordinary stories of those forced to flee their homes because of war and persecution. 

‘Many of us struggle to make sense of the greatest refugee crisis since World War II,’ said Jane Mitchell. ‘Understanding what’s going on can be especially confusing for children and teens, but young people have a remarkable capacity to empathise when something is presented in a way they can understand. Stories are a powerful way for young readers to explore difficult topics safely. Words have the power to create empathy, understanding, and provoke action. I am privileged to be able to play my part in that.’

As the reopening of Irish society gathers pace, over 200 libraries and bookshops will participate in this year’s campaign. Popular titles include The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf and Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis. The latter tells the remarkable story of the girl many people first saw in the Irish-produced film ‘The Breadwinner’ and her journey across Afghanistan in search of her family.

‘As we also mark this year the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the number of people forced from their homes due to persecution and war has never been higher,’ said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland. ‘This World Refugee Day we invite young people around Ireland to pick up a book and see the world from the perspective of one of the world’s 25 million refugees.’

‘We are delighted to continue our partnership with UNHCR,’ said Elaina Ryan, CEO Children’s Books Ireland. ‘All children should see themselves reflected in the stories they read and should be given the chance to experience the courage and strength of refugees through books. We hope this ‘Together with Refugees’ reading list will encourage children to read widely and will build empathy and solidarity with refugees.’

The campaign will run from 19 June to 26 June. For more information, click here.