Children should ‘feel the texture of a book’ alongside digital learning

Minister admits book rental scheme unfair to some but ‘very fair’ to schools with no funds

Children from two to 10 years old should “feel the texture of a book and the printed word in reading and writing and the physical holding of it”, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has told the Dáil.

Independent TD Clare Daly had asked about the inclusion of iPads and e-readers in the school book rental scheme and about the implications of the move away from written books.

Mr Quinn said that as a non-professional educationalist he believed young infants from two to 10 should hold books and feel the texture of the printed word.

Ms Daly said that in Lusk, parents of students in secondary schools were being asked for €700 for an iPad system.


Mr Quinn said “it’s about more than merely getting information. It is about getting used to the format in which much information will remain in situ for the rest of their lives, even though they will be highly engaged in digital learning as well. That’s why the book rental scheme at primary school level is so important.”

Earlier, during education questions, Mr Quinn acknowledged it “feels unfair” to schools who set up their own book rental scheme that they could not now benefit from additional funding secured by the Department of Education.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue asked why schools that set up their book rental schemes, with the encouragement of the Minister, were being excluded from the new funding. He said the €15 million funding over three years was confined to about 20 per cent of schools.

“Of course it is unfair but, equally, maintaining the status quo was deeply unfair to many parents. Those parents who had no access whatsoever to book rental schemes needed more support for a variety of reasons,” he said. The scheme was “very fair to kids in schools which had no book rental scheme”, and involved paying €40 a year instead of the €150-€200 it could cost.

Sinn Féin education spokesman Jonathon O’Brien said the scheme was based on crude information and that if a school said that they operated a scheme, it was automatically excluded.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times