Free books for babies project set to begin in Limerick

Bookseed scheme funded by JP McManus Trust to give three books to every baby

Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick – the first book to be distributed in Bookseed programme

Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick – the first book to be distributed in Bookseed programme


Babies as young as three months old will be given free books as part of a scheme to encourage parents to read to them, which begins in Limerick next month.

The Bookseed programme is organised by Children’s Books Ireland which hopes that, with Government support, it will eventually be rolled out nationwide. The Limerick initiative is being funded by €50,000 from the JP McManus Trust and will run over two years.

The scheme will see some 4,000 books distributed to babies – one at the age of three months, another at between seven and nine months, and the final book when the child is one.

“We hope it will help parents to feel confident about reading to their children and we hope it will be a resource that they can draw on,” said Children’s Books Ireland director Elaina Ryan.

“The objective of this initiative is to ensure that children in the Limerick area have equal access to the joy of reading, so we are trying to inform families about the benefits of reading and remove any barriers that may exist to accessing books,” she said.

Health centres

The first two books will be distributed through health centres in Rathkeale, Abbeyfeale, Newcastlewest and Croom, as well as in two health centres in the city, Southill and Barrack View. The third book will be available to parents through their local library.

The first book to be distributed will be Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick. The board book tells the story of a family of owls who become neighbours with a family of bats.

Ms Ryan says it is expected to begin from March 4th with parents or guardians receiving a booklet on how to read to babies and how to join the library.

Mary Immaculate College in Limerick is to carry out an ongoing evaluation of the impact of the programme.

“They will be looking at how we deliver the programme and also at the impact of the scheme,” Ms Ryan said, adding that it is hoped the research would underline the scheme’s importance and strengthen the case to the Government for a national rollout of Bookseed.

She said the scheme was organised along the lines of a similar, successful project in the UK, Bookstart, which has been running for more than two decades.