Children and young people from across Donegal helped to mark the launch of an exciting, new shared reading project which will be rolled out across the county in the coming months.

For the first time, Verbal, an arts-based organisation, has partnered with Donegal County Council to deliver its successful Reading Rooms model to 260 children and young people aged 10 to 18-years living throughout Donegal.

This project is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding for this project has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

Verbal’s Reading Rooms is a health and well-being programme that uses literary fiction to explore, in a safe space, themes like conflict resolution, resilience, problem-solving and hope. Over the next 12 months, groups of participants will meet weekly to hear high-quality and thematically targeted literature read aloud by a trained volunteer.

Through conversation, storytelling and shared experiences, this project aims to build positive relations and respect among children and young people from different religious and cultural backgrounds, as well as promoting positive mental health and well-being.

Alongside local libraries, a number of schools have also signed up to participate in the programme including St Patrick’s Girls National School Carndonagh, Colaiste Cholmicille Ballyshannon, Rosses Community School and Drumkeen Community School, to name a few.

Last Friday afternoon, school children, teaching and library staff were among the guests invited to the official launch of the cross-border project. Also in attendance at the event, which took place in the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny, were project volunteers, representatives from Donegal County Council, Derry City and Strabane District Council, TUSLA and the

Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Highland Radio DJ, Lee Gooch also came along to mark the occasion.

Following the launch event, Chief Executive of Verbal, James Kerr said: “We are thrilled to have been given this opportunity to partner with Donegal County Council to deliver our successful Reading Rooms programme to children and young people living throughout the Donegal area.

“Our Reading Room programme is a group-based bibliotherapy intervention which generates targeted discussions around high-quality literature to foster emotional well-being and build resilience. The programme encourages children and young people to listen to others and to share their own stories and experiences with confidence because we believe that every story matters. It is also hoped that this process will strengthen relationships and inspire a genuine connection with literature.”

Concluding, Mr Kerr said: “Peace IV funding has provided us with the opportunity to create real impact for participants and we are very excited about the limitless potential this project offers.