President Mary McAleese announced Siobhán Parkinson as Laureate na nÓg, Ireland’s first laureate for children’s literature, presenting her with the Laureate na nÓg medal at a special event at the Arts Council.
Laureate na nÓg is a new initiative of the Arts Council with the support of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland. The honour has been established to engage young people with high quality children’s literature and to underline the importance of children’s literature in our cultural and imaginative life. Laureate na nÓg is also supported by Eason’s and by the Irish Times.
Speaking to an audience of children and adults, the President said writers had "woven magic into people's minds and hearts with words".
"Books are stepping stones to your best self," President McAleese said. "They take you right into your own head, they give you a great realm of friends, they open you to the whole world around you."
Pat Moylan, Chairman of the Arts Council, said, "The Arts Council is proud to initiate Ireland's first laureate for children's literature. Laureate na nÓg seeks to broaden and enrich young people's imaginative worlds, to encourage a love of reading and to inculcate the value of literature among children and young people."
"Literature plays a unique role in helping us to interrogate who we are as a society, it has the power to make us understand what it means to be human, and it offers us that most subversive of things - pleasure," Ms Moylan added.
She continued, ‘This is an exciting and valuable initiative and it comes at a time when good news and optimism, particularly in relation to children and young people, are vital. Through the Laureate, and the Arts Council's overall support for children's literature, we are working to get more children reading and reading more adventurously.'
Speaking about her appointment Siobhán Parkinson said, "I am thrilled and honoured to be chosen as the first Laureate na nÓg. I believe that children's literature lays the foundations of the imaginative life of a people, and that every child deserves to have access to a reading haven -- a well-stocked and well-run library in their school and in their community."