How this Dundalk teacher ended up co-writing the new Ann and Barry for Irish schoolkids

Aoife Curran-Butler co-wrote 100 stories - some with Louth influences

Tia Clarke

Reporter:

Tia Clarke

Email:

tia.clarke@dundalkdemocrat.ie

Aoife Curran-Butler

Aoife Curran-Butler has helped to write a book being published by CJ Fallon

Dundalk-based primary school teacher Aoife Curran-Butler had always dreamed of penning her own book. The Kilkerley National School senior infants teacher, who is a past pupil of St Louis, grew up with a life-long love of reading.


“Our weekly visit to the library was an important ritual for me. The two-book loan was never enough for me as I’d often sit on the bottom of the big stairs of the old library devouring my books as I waited for my parents to finish in the adults’ Library.

"Kathy and Isabel were always so accommodating and at one stage I ended up with three library cards!” recalls Aoife.

The Rainbow English programme 


The local teacher has fond memories of curriculum classics such as Ann and Barry and Tara and Ben (for the eighties babies amongst our readers). But Aoife never dreamed her stories would end up in the modern-day version of these books and be read by primary school children all over Ireland.

It's an opportunity that arose following a conversation Aoife had with a CJ Fallon sales representative who visited Kilkerley National School in 2016.

“I was speaking with a local sales rep who visited our school and I expressed my frustration that the school books followed the stories of children in England and America. I wondered why we didn't have any of our own books, set here in Ireland, instead of having to import them from other countries,” she explained.

Aoife told the sales rep that whilst she thought it was wonderful that Irish schools were using levelled readers (English curriculum books which cater to pupils individual reading abilities), she was still “disappointed that there were no  levelled  readers to represent our children growing up in Ireland today.”

Little did the local primary school teacher know CJ Fallon's, Ireland's largest educational publishers, had also noticed this gap in the market and had started developing The Rainbow English programme – a modern teaching method that places a focus on Oral English.

“Not long after our conversation, I received a phone call from the editor asking me to submit a proposal and some stories,” Aoife explained.

Soon the local primary school teacher was dreaming up story ideas, along with three other experienced Irish writers Richard Byrne, John Newman and Marie Synnott, for a new English reader that would reflect the lives of children growing up in Ireland. As someone who had grown up in Dundalk and settled in Seatown with her husband and two children, Aoife thought it was important to reflect her own upbringing, by including places from the locality in the tales.


In the 100 plus stories that Aoife co-wrote with the team of writers the themes are refreshingly Irish with some Co. Louth influences thrown into the mix. There are tales of children playing on the mountainside with Cuchulainn, others based on a day visit to a GAA final in Croke Park, a trip to the Poc Fada and another about children taking part in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. 


Aoife was also influenced by her own children Violet and Conan, her 16 years of primary school teaching, and her experience as an Aistear Tutor (a teaching framework Aoife delivers to primary schools in Louth that provides for learning through play for children aged 4-6 years old) when coming up with the stories.

“In the Spring of 2016, I started writing stories about the lives of two children Luke and Emma who live in a fictional town of Seatown. The two main characters have a magical remote control, which enables them to go off on all sorts of adventures,” Aoife told the Dundalk Democrat,

“The stories include all the day-to-day nuances of life in Ireland. And having co-written over 100 stories, I am confident that Irish children will now have access to a series of enjoyable stories that they can relate to.”

Aoife Curran-Butler lives in Seatown, Dundalk 


Mrs. Curran-Butler continued: “I've used my experience as an Infant Teacher and Aistear Tutor to incorporate themes of learning through play to develop this programme in response to the Department’s directive to explicitly teach Oral Language.”


The results of Aoife's, and the three other Irish writers hard work, (who are also primary school teachers) was launched at The Irish Primary Schools and Principals Network conference, which took place in Dublin over the last weekend.

The programme, which is being published by CJ Fallon, and will be introduced to schools across Ireland in Spring 2018, includes innovative and vibrant lessons and online resources. There are 16 units per year with four lessons which include interactive digital posters and dialogues, oral language games, animations and slideshows, and songs and poems.

It's an experience that Aoife thoroughly enjoyed – and a dream the teacher still can't believe she got to fulfill.

“It was an amazing opportunity and an amazing experience. It's something I've always dreamed of doing and it's not very often that you get to fulfill your dreams!” the author concluded.


And with stories this good, the new Rainbow English readers are sure to grab the imagination of Irish children and instill in them a lifelong love of reading.

Aoife would like to thank Ciara and Kathyrn in Dundalk Education Centre and Madonna Lambert, Principal of Kilkerley National School for their help and support, and her husband William Butler for being an unofficial proofreader. 

Aoife worked as junior writer to co-write the stories in the new Rainbow English readers with a team of experienced writers made up of Richard Byrne, John Newman, and Marie Synnott.  

If your school would like more information on the programme or to trial it please contact local CJ Fallon representative Ciaran Payne at 086 1084948 or cpayne@cjfallon.ie