Children’s Books Ireland has launched a new campaign, Reading Matters, as a way to respond to the recent anti-LGBTQ+ protests carried out at libraries and bookstores all over the country. Accompanied by the publication of the charity’s annual reading guide, the campaign aims to highlight the importance of reading to create a more welcoming and inclusive society.
Since March this year, there have been numerous reports of far-right protesters attempting to enter libraries and bookstores across the country and have LGBTQ+ books removed from their catalogues. Workers at the targeted locations have been subjected to intimidation, harassment and verbal abuse, while the protesters filmed them without their consent.
While on multiple occasions, the far-right agitators failed to enter the libraries thanks to the presence of counter-protesters who showed up in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, their actions still caused unwelcomed disruption. In one instance, the Cork City Library was forced to close due to “safety concerns” ahead of such a demonstration.
Speaking to The Bookseller, Children’s Books Ireland said: “Since early this year, we have witnessed a targeted campaign by right-wing groups to limit young people’s access to inclusive reading material.
“This has taken the form of demonstrations at libraries and bookshops across the country, and at the offices of Children’s Books Ireland, with this vocal minority protesting the presence of LGBTQ+ material on bookshelves and on reading lists,” it added.
Our annual reading guide is HERE!#ReadingMatters features 286 excellent books for young readers aged 0–18, with Irish titles marked with a little ☘️ throughout.
Cover artwork by the amazing @roisinhahessy.
— Children’s Books Ireland (@KidsBooksIrel) September 19, 2023
With the new campaign in response to the anti-LGBTQ+ protests, Children’s Books Ireland is calling on the public to remember the positive impact that reading has on children’s empathy and understanding of others. The charity is asking everyone to work together to ensure that young readers can access diverse and inclusive books.
The new Reading Matters guide includes 286 titles published in 2023, which are dubbed the “best in children’s and YA publishing”. Among the titles featured in the list are LGBTQ+ books such as Pride and Joy: A Story About Becoming an LGBTQIA+ Ally by Frank J. Sileo and Kate Lum-Potvin; The Dos and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar; Jamie: A joyful story of friendship, bravery and acceptance by L.D. Lapinski; Boy Like Me by Simon James Green; and The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes.
Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, commented on the launch of the new reading guide, saying: “It might be easy to think, sometimes, in a busy world, that reading doesn’t matter quite so much as it used to for children and young people when there are so many ways for them to spend their time. And yet, we believe that reading matters. It really matters. Sometimes, it can be life-saving.
“Reading is freedom – in the sense that it opens the world up to be explored and introduces important ideas to young readers: equality, justice, kindness, empathy,” Ryan continued. “Reading is also freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and it matters that everyone can tell their story and can read a version of their story in a book.”
The Reading Matters guide is available for free in libraries across Ireland and can be downloaded from the Children’s Books Ireland website. A copy of the reading guide has also been sent out to all primary and secondary schools in Ireland.
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