In recent years there has been very substantial development in the area of children’s books in Irish. Author Colmán Ó Raghallaigh tells us about the growth of reading in Irish:
It is generally accepted that production and design standards are now very high and that very often these exceed those in English-language publishing. Indeed it might be argued that there now exists in Ireland an indigenous industry in the writing and production of children’s books that does not exist in English, given that the vast majority of children’s books in English come from outside of Ireland.
There is a strong base of long-established Irish language writers and a growing number of new authors who are feeding into this development. In the case of Cló Mhaigh Eo, for example, we have published work by more than 12 new authors in the past few years.
The ongoing investment by Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge (The Irish Language Books Board) in supporting publishing in Irish is clearly bearing fruit, and apart from publishers and writers the benefits extend also to artists, designers, printers and independent book clubs and retailers.
Categories of Irish Books
When speaking of books for young people there are of course many sub-categories. There are pre-readers, story books and big books for small children and a growing range of picture books for the 8-12 age group. At this level there remains a need for further novels and short stories to bridge the substantial gap between children’s picture books and independent teenage reading, an area where there has been a welcome growth in recent years.
Such novels and short stories are essential in order to build on the growing number of “active” or “self-motivated” readers who are coming on stream through the Gaelscoileanna, north and south, and to preserve and develop reading in Irish among Gaeltacht children.
Outside of those two groups there continues to be a substantial number of children from the “ordinary” education system who will read and enjoy Irish books at a basic level, as well as those who are raised through the medium of Irish across the country. It is from these groups of young people who are currently tapping in to reading in Irish through both through home and school that the future generation of Irish readers will come. Such a development will be absolutely vital in ensuring that the language continues to thrive for the next number of generations.
School Books vs “Real Books”
Before looking briefly at the range of material available it is important to distinguish between textbooks, specifically produced for schools and “real books” produced for independent leisure reading, although many of the latter have increasingly found their way into schools as part of the revised curriculum, often proving more popular than commercially produced “school books”.
For the younger age group the Mamó series (4 titles) written by Mary Arrigan and published by An Gúm remain a treasure and can be read to and by children across a very broad age-spectrum from 4-10 and sometimes beyond. (We must always bear in mind ability levels when speaking of second language readers.) The Bran titles from the same publisher also remain as popular as ever.
The very popular Ruairí books, published by Cló Mhaigh Eo, currently comprise 3 large picture books and three smaller volumes of three stories each. Interactive CD roms are available for two of these and all will be available on CD from early 2009. These have consistently been the best selling books in Irish for children over the past decade and new titles are planned.
Other successful series include the six Múinteoir Molly books by Heather Henning, the Toby books by Tríona Ní Chinnéide and three titles by Liam Prút about the adventures of the young foal, Crúibín (all from Cló Mhaigh Eo). A large number of other picture books are also available, including many excellent translations from other languages by An Gúm as well as various titles from other Irish language publishers. The O’Brien Press has also produced a popular series of small paperbacks entitled SOS, featuring writers such as Áine Ní Ghlinn and Úna Leavy.
For older readers and teenagers an exciting recent development has been the arrival of graphic novels in Irish, a format particularly suitable for language learners. The latter are fully illustrated comic style adaptations of Irish historical and mythological themes with an attractive contemporary feel. Titles include An Táin and An Tóraíocht, while the story of Deirdre is due out in December.
Well-established writers such as Ré Ó Laighléis, the author of the Punk and Ecstasy short stories, remain very popular for teenagers, while there are also a growing number of short stories and novels aimed at this age group from publishers such as An Gúm, Cois Life, Cló Mhaigh Eo and Cló Iar-Chonnacht.
Some Useful Resources and Websites:
An Gúm: www.forasnagaeilge.ie 27 Sráid Fhreidric Thuaidh, Baile Átha Cliath 1
Na foilsitheoirí Gaeilge is mó do phaistí. An-chuid leabhar do gach aoisghrúpa, ina measc an tsraith Mamó.
Cló Mhaigh Eo: www.leabhar.com Droimnín, Clár Chlainne Mhuiris, Co. Mhaigh Eo.
Go leor pictiúrleabhar do gach aoisghrúpa, an tsraith chlúiteach Ruairí ina measc.
Cló Uí Bhriain: www.obrien.ie/gaeilge/ 20 Br. Victoria, Baile Átha Cliath 1
An tsraith Sos agus roinnt leabhar bhreátha eile ar fail.
Colmán Ó Raghallaigh can be contacted by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org