Irish authors, illustrators, and librarians have joined forces to launch Discover Irish Children's Books, a new campaign in response to the underrepresentation of Irish children's literature on bestseller lists.

Eoin Colfer, Marita Conlon-McKenna, Chris Haughton, Shane Hegarty, and Laureate na nÓg Patricia Forde are among a collective of Irish writers, illustrators, teachers, librarians, and booksellers who have come together to launch the new initiative to champion children’s books written by those living and working in Ireland.

Discover Irish Children’s Books estimates there are upwards of 350 published children’s writers and illustrators from or living in Ireland. Yet for 15 weeks between May and early August 2023, no Irish books charted in the weekly children’s top ten sellers list. In the same period, 96 Irish writers charted in the equivalent list for adult fiction.

Children’s writer and bookseller, Sarah Webb says this trend shocked her: “Out of interest, I asked children attending my summer workshops who their favourite writer was. Even when prompted, they struggled to name an Irish writer.

“On the international stage, Ireland’s storytellers for children are much celebrated. Eoin Colfer’s ‘Artemis Fowl’ was a New York Times bestseller. John Boyne’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ has been translated into 56 languages. Oliver Jeffers has sold over 14 million books worldwide. Catherine Doyle, Judi Curtin, Roddy Doyle, Derek Landy, Mary Murphy – these are well-known names in children’s books globally.

“Yet at home, there’s a lack of knowledge and awareness that Discover Irish Children’s Books is determined to tackle. We want to see new and well-established Irish writers and illustrators at book festivals, hear them on the radio and published in newspapers, and find them front and centre in bookshop and library displays.

“Almost a quarter of all books sold in Ireland are children’s titles, but celebrity authors and big marketing budgets dominate that pool.

"There will always be a place for international writers and for the classics we all know and love, but there is a diverse wealth of new Irish books available, we need to give them an equal opportunity to find their way into children’s hands.”

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To highlight the range of Irish titles available to young readers, the campaign will launch a new top ten bestsellers list dedicated to Irish children’s books. The list will be informed by the top ten bestsellers in a different independent bookshop across Ireland each week throughout September and October.

Award-winning children’s writer and illustrator Chris Haughton has also designed a sticker to be made available to bookshops, libraries and schools to highlight Irish children’s books for young readers and adults. The campaign will raise awareness of titles for all ages on social media using #DiscoverIrishKidsBooks and work directly with teachers to recommend novels for class groups. 

“Ireland now has a wonderful canon of literature for children in both English and Irish," said Patricia Ford, a children’s author and Laureate na nÓg.

"We owe it to our young people to promote that work and to make sure that they are aware of books that are written and illustrated here. We all need to see ourselves and our culture in the books that we read, and our writers and illustrators need our support to continue making that work.”

Children’s Books Ireland CEO, Elaina Ryan said: “There’s much deserved celebration of the four Irish authors longlisted for the Booker Prize at the moment but what went by with little fanfare earlier this year, was the longlisting or shortlisting of two Irish authors and illustrators and an Irish publisher for the prestigious Yoto Carnegie Medals, which recognizes work created for children and young people.

"Ireland’s literary excellence is as obvious in our books for young readers as it is in those for adults, and they are equally worthy of our praise and support.”

You can learn more about the Discover Irish Children's Books campaign on its website.