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News story

First school library transformations in Northern Ireland

19 Jun 2024

Belfast Library Launch

Over 6,000 children at 18 primary schools in Belfast have benefitted from improved libraries thanks to this year’s Chase school libraries programme, which aims to help children and young people unlock their future potential by improving access to school libraries in disadvantaged communities across the UK.

In partnership with Chase and supported by Penguin Books, the programme marks the National Literacy Trust’s first presence in Northern Ireland, transforming reading spaces to spark a love of reading in children.

As part of the programme in Northern Ireland, Holy Evangelists' Primary School's library has had a complete transformation, while a further 17 primary schools have received enhanced reading zones including new bookcases, soft furnishings, and an audio book device each with a selection of audio books. The children have also benefitted from a total of 7,200 new books for their libraries, kindly donated by Penguin Books.

Children at Holy Evangelists’ Primary School enjoyed a special event to mark the opening of their new library, as Irish writer and illustrator Aoife Dooley and Northern Irish author Ellan Rankin, who are well-known for their bestselling books including Frankie’s World and The Secret Elephant, joined in the celebrations.

Claire Robinson, Principal, Holy Evangelists’ Primary School teacher said: "We're absolutely delighted to have a new library - thanks to Chase and the National Literacy Trust - and to be the flagship school in Northern Ireland for the programme. This magical addition to our school is a dream that has now become a reality. It's so important to give our children the opportunity to experience a love of reading, escape into stories and different worlds, and develop their imaginative and creative thinking - because we know this can all help to build confidence and self-esteem. We could never have afforded to convert a space and fill it with new books, due to the rising costs of resources and limited budgets, so the excitement we feel about now having this space to use every day is brilliant."

Ellan Rankin, a children's author, commented: “Reading for pleasure at primary school was the spark that ignited my writing career. Those early days spent with my nose in a book transported me to fantastical worlds and introduced me to characters who felt like dear friends. A school library is more than just a room filled with books; it's a gateway to adventure, knowledge, and dreams. It fosters a love for reading, which in turn boosts children's language skills, critical thinking, and creativity. So it's heartbreaking that some children, especially those in more underprivileged areas, don't have access to the wealth of enjoyment these books can bring. The skills children learn in a library will set them up for the rest of their lives, and every child deserves to have that opportunity.”

Deborah Keay, UK CMO at Chase, said: “We believe that every book opened is a door to new opportunities. Our Chase school libraries programme aims to help children develop a love of reading, unlocking their potential and building pathways towards future employment. We're excited to extend our programme to Northern Ireland this year, providing children with creative spaces and the opportunity to enjoy a diverse range of literature.”

Jonathan Douglas, CBE, CEO of the National Literacy Trust said: "We know, in Northern Ireland, that a staggering 41% of primary schools do not have a designated library area and all the benefits it affords children in terms of confidence, wellbeing and academic success. So, we are delighted to be working with 18 schools in Belfast this year. Thanks to our Libraries for Primaries partner Chase, over 6000 pupils across the city now have the opportunity to enjoy their new or enhanced libraries and go on to develop a life-long love of reading.”

Since launching its school libraries programme three years ago, 312 libraries have been transformed or enhanced, impacting over 107,000 pupils. Building on a successful first two years, in 2024, Chase has expanded the programme to four new areas (Belfast, Glasgow, Greenwich (London), and Liverpool), while also providing additional support to three existing regions (Edinburgh, Manchester, and Cardiff) with the resources they need to inspire a love of reading.

Chase is also a flagship member of the Libraries for Primaries campaign, which is a group of organisations that work to address the lack of investment in primary school libraries.

Libraries for Primaries has, so far, transformed 1,000 school libraries and trained over 2,000 teachers and support staff. The next phase of our campaign is to ensure that every primary school in the UK has a library or dedicated library space.

​Our partners include Arts Council England, Bloomberg, Chase, The Foyle Foundation, the Marcus Rashford Book Club, Oxford University Press, The Portal Trust, The Unwin Foundation, The Julia and Hans Rausing Trust and 30 supporting organisations.

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