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Children’s Books for Challenging Times

At Riverbank Arts Centre we have a strong commitment to presenting and promoting a broad range of children’s literature and celebrating authors and illustrators. Our current literary programme includes working with writers Padraig Kenny, Sarah Webb, Jacqui Hurley and Patricia Forde on schools events and Children’s Books Ireland on a Virtual Book Clinic as part of First Fortnight.

As children and young people are under immense pressure these days, we thought we would share some literature that might help make sense of the world. First up is a recent publication by Children’s Books Ireland in partnership with Jigsaw and ISPCC Childline – MIND YOURSELF, the mental health and wellbeing reading guide .

Mind Yourself was born in a pandemic and is published during an unprecedented time as children and young people return to school following a period of isolation. We want to recognise the very valid feelings that may arise during this time and to provide support for adults who may need a way to start a difficult conversation with a younger person, perhaps by reading a story aloud with them, by leaving a book on their bed with a note or by giving them this guide with a book token to find their own way through it. As always, we want our guides to enable children and young people – with the help of a family member, carer, teacher or librarian – to find the right book for them at a particular time, and if they’re struggling, to tóg sos le scéal or lighten the load with a book. Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland

The Mind Yourself reading guide is a resource that can be used by adults – parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers – to support and educate young people in relation to mental health and wellbeing. The guide contains reviews and recommendations of over 400 books for children and young people from birth to age eighteen and is designed as a ‘first-aid kit’ for worries, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and any number of feelings that a young person may want to explore. Mind Yourself also contains mental health and wellbeing information from Jigsaw and ISPCC Childline, including tips and coping strategies for young people and advice for adults on supporting children to build resilience. The guide is available free of charge through every library authority in the Republic of Ireland and a digital version of the Mind Yourself Reading Guide can be viewed or downloaded here. (lovely cover illustration by Tarsila Kruse)

Children’s Books Ireland also have published specialist reading lists, from 0-YA  on various topics including  Rainbow ReadsEmotional Well-BeingGriefCelebrating Difference, Inclusivity and Representation and Different Abilities.

Children’s Books Ireland’s booklet Recommended Reads/Rogha Leabhar 2019–20 selects 350 books for children of all ages – a fantastic resource.  Their #GrowaReader campaign features the artwork of Peter Donnelly and includes a specially curated section on the theme of the environment – protecting it, celebrating it and embracing it.
“To help children of all ages (and their grown-ups) on their journey to environmental awareness and, maybe, activism, we have gathered a collection of 48 brilliant books published in the last five years. Within their pages, young readers (from babies to older teens) can marvel at the beauty and magic of nature, find tips on how to reduce their carbon footprint and get inspiration from fictional and real-life young heroes who tackle climate change head on. Stories, fact books, poetry, activity books, search-and-find books, how-to books and more: writers, photographers and illustrators use all the tricks of their trades to bring home both the vastness of the problem and the great array of possible solutions, all the while getting readers excited about and wowed by the wonders of our fragile planet.”
We usually have copies of the printed version in Riverbank, but in these times see the downloadable PDF 

The UK’s national centre for Children’s Books, 7 Stories, has compiled a list of 60 books to celebrate diversity in children’s fiction – “To celebrate diversity in children’s fiction, here are some of our favourite books for children of all ages by Black authors and illustrators and about incredible Black people in history.  We believe children’s books are a powerful way to talk about diversity, equality and racism.” You can see their favourite books for children of all ages by Black authors and illustrators here.

Ruth Concannon, author of The Reader of Books blog, has put together this excellent list
Using Children’s Books to Discuss Racism & Discrimination –

Ruth says “The problem of racism cannot be solved in children’s books, but it is a safe place we can start these conversations; it is a place where we can actively seek to make more diverse; it is a space that we can strive to ensure that all children feel welcome.”

To access children’s books we recommend Kildare Library Service or independent booksellers who specialise in Children’s Books including Woodbine Books (Kilcullen), Farrell and Nephew (Newbridge),  Half Way Up The Stairs (Greystones, Wicklow), Raven Books (Blackrock, Dublin), Books Upstairs (Dublin) and the Gutter Bookshop