If you’re looking for amazing books for children and young adults, the Carnegie Medal judges have done the work for you and published this year’s nomination lists!

I’m very proud to say there are no less than 14 Irish books on these lists! So what better time to mention that award winning Irish author, reviewer, bookseller and all round powerhouse, Sarah Webb, is spearheading a campaign to promote books by Irish writers and illustrators.

#DiscoverIrishKidsBooks came about when Sarah “increasingly realised that the Irish children’s top ten bestseller list rarely features ANY Irish books.”

“There are around 350 published Irish children’s authors and illustrators, including those living and working in Ireland. That’s a lot of children’s authors and illustrators! We have our own Laureate na nÓg, Patricia Forde who writes in both Irish and English. 24% of book sales in Ireland are children’s books.

But there is a problem. When asked, many children living in Ireland cannot name any children’s authors who are Irish or living in Ireland.

Very few children’s authors and illustrators based in Ireland are appearing at book and arts festivals in Ireland, or in the Irish media. (It’s certainly not 24% of the event programming.)

From March to the start of August 2023 – twenty weeks – only ten books by Irish children’s authors or illustrators charted in the top ten children’s books. There were 123 Irish authors  in the adult original fiction chart in the corresponding twenty weeks.”

“Sarah hopes to fix this situation by bringing Irish children’s books and their authors and illustrators to the attention of young readers and their grown ups. She has brought together a crack team of children’s book experts to help.”

And she wants your help! The #DiscoverIrishKidsBooks website has resources and tips that teachers, librarians, authors, parents, journalists, booksellers, publishers and festivals can use to raise awareness of Irish books for young people. You can make a big difference in very simple ways. Is your library highlighting Irish writing? Is your school inviting Irish authors? Is your local bookshop/giftshop/museum/airport stocking Irish books? If not, could you bring the campaign to their attention? Are your relatives asking what the kids want for Christmas? Could you suggest some great quality Irish books instead of the usual celebrity-authored stuff on the shelves in Tesco? There are lots of tips on the website for how to Be An Irish Children’s Book Champion.

Why is it important? Because “you have to see it to be it.” Children need to see that people just like them can be writers, illustrators and creatives of all kinds. And they need to see characters like them, in towns like theirs, in the books they read to know that their own stories are worth telling.

If you’ve ever been in a creative writing class with kids, you’ll have had the experience of watching almost every writer (no matter their nationality, ethnicity, or any disability) sit down and write a story about an able-bodied, white, American kid (or maybe an English one, but very rarely Northern Irish ones). Because that’s who they see in books. They think that’s who books are about. They think those are the stories worthy of being published.

I couldn’t have named an Irish children’s writer when I was young. I’d certainly never met one, I’d never read anything set in Northern Ireland, and I was 35 before it occured to me to write something set in the places I knew best. I’d love that to be different for kids today.

So please have a look at the brilliant website Sarah Webb and her crack team of book experts has set up and follow their progress on socials. The campaign is just getting started and we’d love you to be a part of it!


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