Teachers back calls for financial support for children’s book fund
A DEPUTY principal and a teacher from two local primary schools are backing calls for the maintenance of the €20m School Library Book Fund.
In their pre-Budget submission for 2023, the Children’s Books Ireland charity called on the Department of Education to maintain the €20m investment that was made in Budget 2022.
Last year’s investment was made towards rebuilding schools’ library stock after over a decade without funding to buy books.
Despite the funding granted to schools last year, Children’s Books Ireland still received almost 650 applications for their school library donation programmes this year.
The charity has stated that, while welcome, the once-off investment needs to be maintained to compensate for the long period in which school libraries were under-resourced and to ensure that children have ongoing access to the books they need.
The importance of investing in books for school libraries, and the positive impact they can have on young readers, was highlighted by staff from two local schools.
Laura Kenny, a teacher in Rathfarnham Parish National School, said: “As a primary school teacher, the value of books in the hands of children cannot be denied.
“The joy of discovering new characters, new stories, new worlds, and the magic that comes with a good book, has so much educational value.
“The world of books allows educators to teach a myriad of skills: oral language, new vocabulary, sentence structure, story composition, genres of writing, to name but a few, in an exciting, complementary way.
“Supplying books to schools in order to provide enrichment and education to our youngest citizens builds a population whose love of reading and education will stand to us as they grow.”
This sentiment was echoed by Jean McAdam, deputy principal of Scoil Aonghusa Junior School in Tallaght, who said that Government investment in school libraries should continue.
“We want to promote a culture of reading early in the child’s life, and we need to constantly look for ways to encourage children’s interest and love of reading,” she said.
“Having specific funding for just that demonstrates the value and importance of reading in children’s lives.
“Regular funding would allow us to replenish our books frequently with new publications and replace old, tarnished books if need be.
“Also, I would like to be able to respond to children’s interests and purchase books they have requested or shown an interest in.
“I think it’s important they have a say in what they would like to read and having regular funding would allow a certain commitment to this.
“We are a DEIS band one school, where some of our children will not have access to books in their home or library visits.
“Therefore, I believe we need to provide for them in schools as best as possible. We aim to have a library that is rich with different genres and levels of texts, so that it is accessible to all.”
According to Children’s Books Ireland, a vast body of evidence shows that reading for fun in childhood improves literacy and numeracy skills, empathy, and mental wellbeing.
Reading is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background, stated the charity.