‘Every child should feel free to be themselves’

Children’s Books Ireland celebrates the beauty of difference in new reading guide

At Children’s Books Ireland, our vision is simple: Every Child A Reader. We know that the best way to inspire a love of reading in children and young people is to connect them with stories that inspire and engage them. Stories that mirror their own, and those that provide a window into another world entirely.

That’s why we’re so proud to launch Free To Be Me: The Diversity, Inclusion and Representation project in partnership with KPMG. Free To Be Me encourages children to find beauty in their differences and solidarity in their shared humanity. Every child should feel free to be themselves.

The Free To Be Me reading guide contains more than 360 book recommendations, all featuring diverse characters and stories. We have picked out a few great reads from the guide below, and you can find the rest, along with Free To Be Me posters, badges and more, on our website at childrensbooksireland.ie

My Hair by Danielle Murrell Cox
HarperCollins Children's Books, £6.99
Hair comes in all shapes, sizes and styles, and the author celebrates its many forms, including afros, braids, cornrows and banto knots. A diverse cast of curly-headed children are included, with skin of various colours and shades depicted, including vitiligo. With simple, powerful text and bold illustrations, Cox encourages readers to take pride in their locks and assures them that they can say to others: "Don't touch my hair". (Age 0-4)


Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus, illustrated By Polly Dunbar
Walker Books, £12.99
Little Bear can't always follow what others are saying and doesn't understand why people keep asking him "Can bears ski?" When Dad Bear brings him to an audiologist, Little Bear realises that life is louder for others. With charming and expressive illustrations, this is a gorgeous story about communication, love and care, showing children the variety of ways through which people can understand the world. (Age 3-7)

Nowhere To Call Home by Kate Milner
Barrington Stoke, £6.99
This is a heart-wrenching but ultimately hopeful story about a girl whose family loses their house for financial reasons and needs to relocate to a hostel. The minimalist narrative is accompanied by detailed, tender illustrations that evoke the harsh realities of this little girl's experience. An excellent role model for any young reader living in temporary accommodation, hers is a story of finding the positives in a challenging situation. (Age 5-8)

Can't Lose Cant
Kids' Own Publishing Partnership, €10
Foilsithe den chead uair sa bhliain 2003, tá atheagrán den leabhar tábhachtach seo tagtha amach anois. Tá cnuasach d'fhocail choitianta sa Bhéarla, sa Chaintis agus sa Ghaeilge ann agus treoir maidir le habairtí simplí a chumadh tú féin le d'fhoclóir nua! The collage-type feel to the illustrations gives it a sense of being created for and by young people. This edition includes a foreword by Oein DeBhairduin and reminds young people of the rich Cant language and a call to Swirt tarri a lesko! Raise your voice! (Aois 5-8)

The Infinite by Patience Agbabi
Canongate, £6.99
Born on February 29th, Nigerian immigrant Elle is a 'Leapling' with 'The Gift' to leap across time. Just before her 12th birthday in 2048, Elle must unravel a crime across time with her fellow Leaplings. The Leaplings are a vibrant cast of different personalities, races and even historical periods, and neurodiverse heroine Elle has a distinctive and compelling voice. The first in an empowering and thought-provoking adventure series. (Age 9-11)

Proud Of Me by Sarah Hagger-Holt
Usborne Publishing, £6.99
Not quite twins, Josh and Becky have a family that can be complicated to explain, and they even have questions of their own. Proud of Me is a warm, humane story about how even today, despite increasing acceptance in society, LGBTQ+ families can still face prejudice and misunderstandings. Not afraid to look at complicated issues but ultimately hopeful, Sarah Hagger-Holt has written a book to be proud of. (Age 9-13)

The Amazing Edie Eckhart by Rosie Jones, illustrated by Natalie Smillie
Hodder Children's Books, £6.99
Edie loves eating, writing, superheroes and her best friend, Oscar. She also likes when people ask her about her cerebral palsy, rather than pretending they don't notice or it doesn't exist. When the two start secondary school, it's a whole new world for both of them. The Amazing Edie Eckhart, the first in a series, is a funny, uplifting story of friendship, first crushes and standing on your own two feet! (Age 10-13)

Why The Moon Travels by Oein DeBhairduin, illustrated by Leanne McDonagh
Skein Press, €12.95
The first collection of its kind, written and illustrated by members of the Traveller community, these folk stories are both ancient and contemporary. Many are origin stories, and all are love stories, to some extent. With an informal personal introduction to each, accompanying black-and-white illustrations and a glossary at the back, this unique book belongs in every school and household. (Age 12-14)

You're Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood
Hoperoad Publishing, £7.99
At home, Karen has a beer-drinking, bacon-loving Pakistani Muslim dad and a Christian mother who attends church but doesn't believe in God. At school, she's called an 'oreo' by Muslim students and excluded by her friends. Stuck between two versions of herself, Kiran and Karen, she tries to embrace Islam in an attempt to find her true identity. But can she fit in with either side of her heritage? (12+)

What's The T? The No-Nonsense Guide To All Things Trans And/Or Non-Binary For Teens by Juno Dawson, illustrated by Soofiya
Wren & Rook, £8.99
This is a guide written primarily for trans, non-binary and questioning teens, with a section for parents and guardians. Juno Dawson's style is accessible and engaging, covering everything from medical and legal advice to trans terminology and history. A guided tour of all the hurdles and delights a transgender or non-binary individual might face, this book answers all the questions the reader might have, whatever their age or gender. (Young Adult)

Free To Be Me: The Diversity, Inclusion and Representation Reading Guide is available for free through every library authority in the Republic of Ireland. A digital version of the standard and accessible editions can be viewed or downloaded on childrensbooksireland.ie.