New fund to provide libraries for Irish schools

Memorial fund is named after children’s literature champion Robert Dunbar

Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch and Siobhán Parkinson, Eoin Colfer and Niamh Sharkey with children from Rutland National School:  Children’s Books Ireland celebrates 20  years with the inaugural Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries fund.

Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch and Siobhán Parkinson, Eoin Colfer and Niamh Sharkey with children from Rutland National School: Children’s Books Ireland celebrates 20 years with the inaugural Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries fund.

 

The late Robert Dunbar, who championed children’s literature on the pages of The Irish Times for many years, will be remembered by a new memorial fund which will present libraries worth €1,500 to four schools annually.

The Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries fund has been set up by by Children’s Books Ireland (CBI), the organisation of which Dunbar was patron and which celebrates its 20th birthday this year.

To mark the occasion, CBI has announced four new patrons – current Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch and his three predecessors: Siobhán Parkinson (2010-2012), Niamh Sharkey (2012-2014) and Eoin Colfer (2014-2016). The authors and illustrators were all honoured for their significant contributions to children’s literature.

The new patrons all believe this is a golden era for Irish children’s literature. Current laureate and illustrator PJ Lynch believes the current renaissance had its roots in the 1990s. “When I was growing up, there was only Patricia Lynch,” Eoin Colfer agreed. “My perception as a child was that you had to look to England or to America.”

Reading as fun

Siobhán Parkinson said it was important to celebrate children’s books for the pleasure they offer. “It can get too mixed up with school,” she said. “We must not lose sight of the fun.”

Niamh Sharkey pointed out that libraries had suffered from cutbacks and spending freezes during the recession. “The funding was badly cut, and you can see that in the way the books in some libraries are now out of date,” she said.

CBI director Elaina Ryan pointed to recent Arts Council/Economic and Social Research Institute research which highlights the reading habits of children in Ireland: “We know that lots of children are reading,” she said. “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 nine, only 6 per cent of children said they never read, while at the age of 13, that figure increases to 21 per cent.”

One of CBI’s roles is to make sure parents, teachers and librarians have the tools they need to choose or recommend books for children of all ages, from birth through the teenage years, said Ryan. “And that young people make time to read despite their increasingly busy lives.”

Applications for the Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries fund will open in September. More information at childrensbooksireland.ie