Stuart Hamilton, Head of Libraries development at the Local Government Management Agency, introduces Ireland Reads, a new national day to celebrate reading on Thursday, 25th February. 

2020 was a tough year for everyone. As well as the anxiety and fear around Covid-19, lots of things we took for granted – going out for dinner, heading away on holidays, going to a gig – were out of reach. A visit to your local library branch was one of the things that was also not possible for much of the year.

Thankfully in Ireland we are blessed with passionate and committed library staff who came up with all kinds of innovative ways to stay connected with library members and support their communities. I was constantly amazed by the creative solutions staff employed – from moving workshops and book clubs online to organising book delivery services for older and vulnerable people. As part of this effort, Libraries Ireland teamed up with Irish publishers to facilitate the uploading of virtual storytimes for children, free from copyright restrictions.

In a year when we have all been searching for new ways to break out mentally from our daily routines as well as connect with others we can't meet right now, reading offers a way to escape, to lift our mood, and to take part in a communal experience we can share across our household bubbles.

That spirit of partnership and co-operation in overcoming obstacles inspires Ireland Reads. Irish libraries have teamed up with publishers, booksellers, Children's Books Ireland, the National Adult Literacy Agency and others for this campaign.

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Message from President Michael D. Higgins for the Ireland Reads Initiative

Ireland Reads is part of the government-backed Keep Well initiative, and will encourage everyone to discover the joy of reading and participate in a national day of reading on Thursday, 25th February. It’s all about promoting the power of reading for enjoyment and wellbeing – combatting lockdown by encouraging people to get into a habit of regularly setting aside time to sit and read a book, a poem, a comic, a newspaper, whatever works for them.

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Research shows that children who read a lot when they are young are more likely to become lifelong readers and gain significant knowledge along the way. For adults, studies have found that reading for pleasure enhances empathy, understanding of the self, and is effective in combatting loneliness. In a year when we have all been searching for new ways to break out mentally from our daily routines as well as connect with others we can’t meet right now, reading offers a way to escape, to lift our mood, and to take part in a communal experience we can share across our household bubbles.

This February, pledge to take some time for yourself to read, as much time as you can spare and in whatever genre you love most. Libraries and library staff are waiting to welcome people back whenever that’s possible, but until then we always have books to remind us of other people, other places, and better days.

Find out about all that’s happening for Ireland Reads, get book recommendations and take the pledge to read here.