New schools ‘struggling’ to fill libraries due to cut in books grant

Campaign launched to reinstate primary school library fund abolished 15 years ago

Laureate na nÓg Áine Ní Ghlinn and pupils of Catherine McAuley NS - Dylan Pedreschi, Chloe Priest and Jack Carroll - raise their voices for the reinstatement of the school library fund in Budget 2022. Photograph: Julien Behal

Laureate na nÓg Áine Ní Ghlinn and pupils of Catherine McAuley NS - Dylan Pedreschi, Chloe Priest and Jack Carroll - raise their voices for the reinstatement of the school library fund in Budget 2022. Photograph: Julien Behal

 

Many newly-built schools are struggling to fill dedicated library spaces as a result of austerity-era cuts to dedicated funding for books, according to campaigners.

A primary school library fund was previously used to provide new books for libraries in schools throughout the country but was abolished in 2008.

Authors and campaigners have now launched a campaign to restore the grant, especially for disadvantaged schools.

Children’s Laureate , or Laureate na nÓg, Áine Ní Ghlinn said school libraries were a gateway for children to a world of knowledge, imagination, freedom and fun.

“All children have the right to have access to this world, to the gift of reading for pleasure. All children have the right to see themselves, their lives and culture reflected in a book,” she said.

“We need to invest now in the future of our children. We need to give every child the right and opportunity to read. If we care about the future of our children, we need to see the immediate reinstatement of the school library fund.”

The campaign to reinstate the grant is supported by all five of Ms Ní Ghlinn’s predecessors as children’s laureate: Siobhán Parkinson, Niamh Sharkey, Eoin Colfer, P.J. Lynch and Sarah Crossan.

Children’s Books Ireland, a charity and arts organisation that champions children’s reading, said the loss of the grant 15 years ago resulted in fewer children have ready access to high quality, modern books.

Donations

The charity’s chief executive Elaina Ryan said many schools have had to rely on donations to provide an essential resource in the meantime.

“Astonishingly, new schools are being built with a library space provided but no funding to fill it,” she said. “This year we can change this – by restoring the fund in Budget 2022.”

At Government level, responsibility for the support and provision of library services rests with the Department for Rural and Community Development.

It has previously said that local libraries provide a wide range of resources and activities that support primary schools in developing children’s literacy, numeracy, creativity and communication skills.

It maintains that by building on existing partnerships between schools and libraries, all schools can benefit directly from this ongoing co-operation.

Ms Ryan said last year, the charity had almost 400 applications for its school library donation project, 70 per cent of which came from non-Deis or disadvantaged schools.

Daily reading

“Evidence further suggests that among nine- and 13-year-olds, girls from working-class background are as likely as, or even more likely than, middle-class boys to read every day,” she said.

“If we are to provide equal opportunities for all students, the school library fund must be universal.”

The charity says that allocating euro10 for every primary school child in the country to help schools buy books for their libraries would mean a Budget 2022 allocation of just under euro5.7 million.

It says this “modest investment” can open up a “lifetime of possibility and excitement for children”.