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Ireland in Schools

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A good read
For resources, please see following pages and O'Brien Press.


Range & quality

The key to the success of the Ireland in Schools English & literacy pathway is the range and quality of Irish children’s literature - myths & legends, historical novels, fantasy and contemporary realism.

Broad appeal
There are books and stories to suit all ages and abilities, allowing all to participate in a common project.

All can enjoy reading books suited to their individual interests and abilities.
Inclusiveness - high interest, low reading age
Many stories provide high interest material at a low reading age while also offering opportunities to address key grammatical features and extend spoken vocabulary.

Teaching schemes for SEN children in Years 5 & 6 on, for instance, Giants’ WeekIrish & Other Monsters and The Leprechaun Who Wished He Wasn’t draw their objectives from Years 2 to 6 of the NLS Framework.

Contemporary realism

Some writers are portraying a vision of the country in which their young readers are themselves growing up, free from the ‘Oirish’ stereotyping, with such works as

Christy’s Dream - owning horses on a Dublin housing estate, Moon King - the story of a child in care and Breaking the Wishbone, an innovative novel about a Dublin squat, in the form of a TV script.

Fantasy - for boys?
Schools working with Ireland in Schools have their share of reluctant readers among boys, but they all respond to tales of fantasy by Irish authors, such as the fast-moving The Battle below Giltspur and the seriously weird Cirque du Freak.

Myths & legends
The combination of the heroic and the magical, and the feistiness of Irish heroines, appeal across gender and age and ability ranges.

Among the illustrated collections, the favourite is 'The Sea Woman’ in Sionbhe Lally’s lavish Favourite Irish Fairy Tales, stimulating much creative work in and beyond the Literacy Hour, particularly mood charts of the Sea Woman on returning to the sea and leaving her children.

Liam Mac Uistin’s Celtic Magic Tales show

  • magical powers getting people into and out of trouble - ‘Quest for Aideen’;
  • heroes, like Cuchulainn, involved in deadly or humourous contests; and
  • love bringing tragedy - ‘Deirdre & the Sons of Usnach’, an epic story of bravery, loyalty and honour mingled with jealousy, betrayal and death - an early example of tragic love in European literature.

Overview of Irish myths & legends (PowerPoint)

Historical novels
Ireland’s history - generally flashpoint periods when conflicting ideologies meet and when conflicting loyalties are tested - remains a focus of Irish writing for the young.

Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna is the first of an award-winning trilogy. It is a gripping story of love, loyalty and courage set in the devastation of the Irish Famine of the 1840s, when three children were left to fend for themselves.

More on historical novels

Selections from The Wolfhound Book of Irish Poems are equally successful in helping teachers meet the demands of the both the NLS at Key Stage 2, Years 5 & 6 and the Key Stage 3 National Strategy for English. Children warmed especially to ‘The Painting’ by Oscar Wilde, since ‘the line "There stands a little ivory girl" made me think of a little ivory girl.’

More on poetry