Trinity College Dublin: Books written and illustrated by Dublin schoolchildren go on display in Long Room

An exhibition of 47 handmade books written and illustrated by Dublin primary schoolchildren was unveiled by award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Aoife Dooley in the Long Room of the Old Library on Wednesday, April 6th, 2022.

The exhibition marks the culmination of the annual Bookmarks programme which sees students from three Dublin primary schools linked to the University write and illustrate their own books over a two-month period, both in school and on campus. This happens with the support and guidance of a team of expert facilitators – poet Catherine Ann Cullen, editor Síne Quinn, and artist Angela McDonagh, along with children’s book specialists from Trinity.

The project aims to inspire children to become the next generation of storytellers, artists, and creatives. Bookmarks is organised by Trinity Access Programmes (TAP), which supports students from under-represented backgrounds to progress to further and higher education.

At the launch, 6th class pupils from St Laurence O’Toole CBS, Seville Place; Scoil Cholmcille SNS, Ballybrack; and St Laurence O’Toole National School, Rainbow Park; and their families and teachers saw their creations go on display in the historic Long Room. Their books will now become part of Trinity’s permanent collection of over six million printed volumes including the world-renowned Book of Kells. The exhibition will be on display until the end of May.

Kathleen O’Toole-Brennan of Trinity Access Programmes said: “The entire Trinity Access Programmes team is very proud of the Bookmarks initiative and the unique opportunity it provides for children to learn and implement new skills. The programme highlights the importance of children’s literature and culture and affords the participants the chance to be exposed to the world of children’s literature in a very hands-on way. We are delighted to unveil these beautiful works of art and literature. Our outreach programmes attract over 10,000 students annually and with continued involvement these students and their peers will successfully make the transition to both second and third level.”

After a virtual programme in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bookmarks programme came back to the Trinity College campus in 2022, welcoming students from the three participating primary schools into the Old Library and encouraging them to focus on the fantastical theme of ‘Flights of Fancy’ and to seek inspiration for their stories from Trinity’s Pollard Collection of Children’s Books, the largest of its kind in the country, comprising over 10,000 books dating from 17th century to the early 20th century.

Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist added:

“The annual TAP Bookmarks event is always a high point in the Long Room. We love getting the chance to invite these talented new authors into our most special place on campus, and seeing their work placed beside 200,000 of the oldest books in the university’s collection.”

Angela McDonagh, artist and illustration tutor said:

“Each year working with the students on the Trinity Access Bookmarks Programme, I’m reminded how we are all on a hero’s journey of our own! It’s a joy to begin with a child’s blank page and see the stories and drawings come to life! There is something about the tangible aspect of this that is magical!”

Catherine Ann Cullen, poet and story tutor commented:

“Bookmarks is a ground-breaking project, and every year I’m inspired by the children’s imaginations. Writing and illustrating their own book is a fantastic achievement for the boys and girls. Best of all is the excitement when they and their families see their finished work on display in the beautiful Long Room library at Trinity College.”

Sine Quinn, editor and story tutor added:

“From my first meeting with the Bookmarks team at TAP, I instantly knew that this programme was something very special. It’s incredible to hear all their wonderful ideas and to work with the children to encourage them to create, write and illustrate their stories. We emphasise how books are portals to other worlds and that their books will inspire other people to create and share their own stories.”

This year, the Bookmarks exhibition is being launched during the Dublin Learning City Festival which aims to ensure that education and learning are accessible and free for all individuals, regardless of age or cultural background, in traditional and non-traditional settings.

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