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President Higgins celebrates milestones with Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland

Reception at Áras an Uachtaráin marks twenty years of Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) making books a part of every child’s life, and forty years of the Writers in Schools scheme, delivered by Poetry Ireland on behalf of the Arts Council An Chomhairle Ealaíon. 

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and Sabina Higgins today (Wednesday 20th September) marked the work of arts organisations Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland at a special reception at Áras an Uachtaráin. This event marks twenty years of Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) making books a part of every child’s life, and forty years of the Writers in Schools scheme, delivered by Poetry Ireland on behalf of the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíonwhich provides children with creative encounters with writers in their own classrooms. The reception was attended by the current and former executive and board of both organisations, children’s books authors and illustrators, poets and advocates of the importance of celebrating literature for children and young people. 

In honour of President Higgins long-standing commitment to and interest in the importance of the arts in the lives of children and young people, Director of CBI Elaina Ryan and Director of Poetry Ireland Maureen Kennelly presented the President with a selection of Irish children’s books representing the breadth of talent of Irish authors, poets, illustrators and publishing houses. 

Throughout 2017 Children’s Books Ireland is celebrating twenty years of making books a part of every child’s life. Since 1997 the national non-profit children’s books organisation has celebrated children’s books and the joy of reading for pleasure through projects such as the CBI Book of the Year Awards, Inis magazine, the Inis Reading Guide and the annual reading campaign (formerly Children’s Book Festival). New initiatives to celebrate the anniversary include the inaugural Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries and the announcement of Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch and his three predecessors as Patrons of CBI. CBI’s vision is to make books central to every child’s life. With this in mind, Director Elaina Ryan points to recent Arts Council/ESRI research which highlights the reading habits of children in Ireland: ‘We know that lots of children are reading: over half of three-year-olds and two-thirds of five-year-olds are read to every day. Keeping reading in the mix as they grow older is the challenge: at the age of 9, only 6% of children said they never read, while at the age of 13, that figure increases to 21%. One of CBI’s roles is to make sure parents, teachers and librarians have the tools they need to choose or recommend great books for children of all ages, from birth through the teenage years, and that young people make time to read despite their increasingly busy lives.’ 

In 2017 Poetry Ireland and the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon are celebrating forty years of the Writers in Schools Scheme. Writers in Schools is one of the longest running national arts-in-education programmes in Ireland. Since its establishment in 1977, it has sparked more than 500,000 creative encounters between children and writers in the classroom.  Writers in Schools facilitates and part-funds single visits by writers and storytellers to primary, secondary and special schools in every county in Ireland, north and south. The programme also reaches marginalised young people outside of the education system. The writers engaged in the scheme are of the highest calibre and include many well-known published writers like Oisín McGann, Marita Conlon-McKenna, Dermot Bolger, Eiléan  ChuilleanáinNuala  DhomhnaillColm Keegan and Tony Curtis, to name but a few. Poetry Ireland Director, Maureen Kennelly, said of the experience of working with a writer that “it is both enjoyable and memorable, and the creative energy triggered by such encounters can lead to an appreciation of the emotional and intellectual power of language that can last a lifetime.” 

Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council, commented that “It’s a wonderful achievement to mark 40 years of the Arts Council’s Writers in Schools programme and a perfect time to reflect on the value of long term investment in the arts for young people and children. The Arts Council’s current strategy ‘Making Great Art Work’ has identified this as a key priority for development  and we look forward to working in partnership with organisations like Poetry Ireland and Children’s Books Ireland for years to come, in delivering programmes centred on the young person’s experience of the arts.”   

For more information please contact Elaina Ryan on 01 8727475 or 

Photos from the event are available from Photocall Ireland. 



About Poetry Ireland: 

Poetry Ireland connects people and poetry and is committed to achieving excellence in the reading, writing and performance of poetry throughout the island of Ireland. Poetry Ireland receives support from The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon and The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and enjoys rewarding partnerships with arts centres, festivals, schools, colleges and bookshops at home and abroad. 

The organisation’s commitment to creating performance and publication opportunities for poets at all stages of their careers helps ensure that the best work is made available to the widest possible audience, securing a future for Irish poetry that is as celebrated as its past. 

In September 2016 Poetry Ireland moved into its beautiful new home in Dublin’s Parnell Square. We are now embarked on ambitious and innovative plans for the redevelopment of this expansive Georgian townhouse as an all-island institution dedicated to poetry in all its forms. When complete, this development will house the Seamus Heaney Working Library, a contemporary performance space and a café. 


Children’s Books Ireland initiatives: 

Book Clinics 

The CBI Book clinics pop-up at festivals, in arts centres, museums and shopping centres throughout the year, featuring Book Doctors in lab coats who write ‘book prescriptions’ for great reads for children. After an informal chat with their ‘patients’, the Book Doctors recommend excellent books, comics or graphic novels, often using the Inis Reading Guide as a tool, which is given to each family to take home along with a Reading Passport, filled with activities, space for reviewing and doodling and a challenges list for each child to complete. In the waiting room, young patients can get creative through drawing and colouring on ‘doodle starters’, where young people add detail to an existing scene. 

CBI Book of the Year Awards 

The CBI Book of the Year Awards celebrates excellence in Irish children’s literature. As well as CBI’s panel of adult judges, the Shadowing Scheme gives young readers the resources to read and discuss the shortlisted books in their class or book club, and choose the winner of the Children’s Choice award, following the same scoring process as the judges. Categories include the CBI Book of the Year Award, Honour Award for Fiction, Honour Award for Illustration, Eilís Dillon Award (for a first book), Judges’ Special Award and Children’s Choice Award. The shortlisted books are announced at the Belfast Children’s Festival in March, with the winners announced at the International Literature Festival Dublin in May. 

CBI Conference 

The CBI conference takes place each September and celebrates the best in Irish and international children’s books. A weekend of talks, panel discussions and interviews with some of the most exciting creators of books for young people, this event is a great way to discover new books and meet like-minded book-lovers. As part of the conference, CBI presents an award in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the world of children’s books. 

Inis magazine and the Inis Reading Guide 

Inis magazine is unique in being dedicated solely to coverage of children’s books. Packed with book reviews and features on all aspects of children’s books, it is published three times a year and sent direct to CBI members. The Inis Reading Guide is published every October and contains hundreds of reviews of the year’s best books for children of all ages, from young babies to older teenagers. 

Reading Campaign 

During October, CBI produces posters, stickers and bookmarks featuring a specially commissioned artwork by an Irish illustrator. Libraries host author and illustrator events throughout the month and CBI runs regular book competitions on social media. An annual competition with The O’Brien Press asks children to design a new book cover for a chosen book; the winner has their cover published and their edition sold all over Ireland. 

Laureate na nÓg 

Laureate na nÓg is an initiative of the Arts Council with the support of Children’s Books Ireland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Department of children and Youth Affairs and Poetry Ireland. The designation honours a writer or illustrator who has made a significant contribution to children’s books in Ireland, and aims to raise the profile of children’s literature in Ireland and internationally. Writer, translator and publisher Siobhán Parkinson was the inaugural Laureate from 2010–2012, followed by illustrator Niamh Sharkey from 2012–2014, writer Eoin Colfer from 2014-2016 and current Laureate, illustrator PJ Lynch 2016–2018. 

Children’s Books Ireland is core funded by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon with additional regular support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Culture Ireland.

Click here to listen to President Higgins’ speech from the event.

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