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Sector leaders ‘on the same page’ with reading for children

Tuesday 12th March 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Literature


Policy influencers, corporate partners, authors and sector leaders came together on Tuesday 5 March to discuss early children’s book sharing across the health, education and arts sectors in Northern Ireland.

BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, hosted the ‘On the Same Page’ conference as a celebration of cross departmental working as well as a discussion about the impact that early book sharing has on children across Northern Ireland. 

Sector spokespeople including Koulla Yiasouma (Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People), Siobhan Slavin (Nurse Consultant for Early and School Years Public Health Agency), Cathy Galway (Director of Youth, Education and Childcare, Department of Education) and Damian Smyth (Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of NI) alongside notable children’s authors and illustrators Dan Freedman, Myra Zepf, Andrew Whitson Kelly McCaughrain discussed the impact and the future of early children’s book sharing as well as strategies to diversify funding. The main outtakes of this included:

  • The importance of the right for a child to flourish and working in close partnership to ensure all children enjoy and achieve
  • The importance of collaboration and cooperation to ensure that every child gets the best start in life
  • The importance of early shared reading in supporting language & literacy skills, brain development, bonding, socio-emotional development and wellbeing

Koulla Yiasouma - Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“As a child I was enthralled by Enid Blyton and for my children, it was Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry that caught their imagination. However, not all parents and children have the access to books which is why the work of the BookTrust is so important. That the charity reaches 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support every year is testament to the hard work and dedication of the organisation and its many supporters. A love of reading helps children to get the best start in life so it is critical that our children are given every opportunity to enter the world of literature.”

Diana Gerald, CEO, BookTrust commented:

“On the Same Page has been a powerful opportunity to make real change in early book sharing which will impact children and families across Northern Ireland. Today’s conference brought department leaders together to discuss book sharing and take action so that every child has access to a bedtime story and an opportunity to discover the magic reading because we know that a love for reading can transform lives.” 

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Research shows that the earlier the reading experience begins with children the better the prospects for future educational and quality of life benefits. The fact that reading is also enjoyable, inspirational, memorable, life-enhancing and, in many cases, life-changing, is an added and wonderful bonus. The Arts Council was delighted to partner in this important conference discussing these and other issues relating to the reading life and to welcome guests from across the field of interest gathered with a common aim.”

Dan Freedman, Author of the Jamie Johnson football series commented,

“It was an absolute honour to have presented a key note speech at the BookTrust’s On the Same Page conference. Reading brings us so much joy and understanding. It was a great opportunity to meet the teachers, librarians, policy makers and practitioners who are helping to ensure that the young people in Northern Ireland can enjoy the pleasure of books from an early age – something they and the whole of society will benefit from.”


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