On the Same Page conference – early book sharing across health, education and the arts in Northern Ireland

Published on: 28 March 2019

BookTrust recently hosted the On the Same Page conference as a celebration of cross departmental working and the impact that early book sharing has on children across Northern Ireland. 

The conference brought together 125 policy influencers, corporate partners, authors and sector leaders to discuss early children’s book sharing across the health, education and arts sectors.

Read the full conference report

Diana Gerald with conference speakers

Pictured: Author Dan Freedman, Koulla Yiasouma (Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People), Diana Gerald (CEO BookTrust), Cathy Galway (Director of Youth, Early Years and Childcare, Department of Education), Siobhan Slavin (Nurse Consultant for Early and School Years Public Health Agency), Damian Smyth (Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of NI).

Other speakers included authors and illustrators: Myra Zepf, Andrew Whitson and Kelly McCaughrain.

The speakers highlighted:

  • The importance of the right for a child to flourish and working in close partnership to ensure all children enjoy and achieve
  • The importance of collaboration and cooperation to ensure that every child gets the best start in life
  • The importance of early shared reading in supporting language & literacy skills, brain development, bonding, socio-emotional development and wellbeing

On the Same Page Conference

Pictured: left - Liz Canning (Head of BookTrust Northern Ireland), bottom right - PGCE Early Years students from Stranmillis University College

Koulla Yiasouma - Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said:

'Not all parents and children have the access to books which is why the work of the BookTrust is so important. That the charity reaches 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support every year is testament to the hard work and dedication of the organisation and its many supporters. A love of reading helps children to get the best start in life so it is critical that our children are given every opportunity to enter the world of literature.'

Diana Gerald, CEO, BookTrust commented:

'On the Same Page has been a powerful opportunity to make real change in early book sharing which will impact children and families across Northern Ireland. Today’s conference brought department leaders together to discuss book sharing and take action so that every child has access to a bedtime story and an opportunity to discover the magic reading because we know that a love for reading can transform lives.' 

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

'Research shows that the earlier the reading experience begins with children the better the prospects for future educational and quality of life benefits. The fact that reading is also enjoyable, inspirational, memorable, life-enhancing and, in many cases, life-changing, is an added and wonderful bonus. The Arts Council was delighted to partner in this important conference discussing these and other issues relating to the reading life and to welcome guests from across the field of interest gathered with a common aim.'

We would like to thank all of our speakers and delegates for supporting On The Same Page. We hope that everyone who attended the conference increased their knowledge around reading for pleasure, and will be able to work towards inspiring a love of reading in every child in Northern Ireland.