ALOA & CEFA Collaborative Conference November 21st in Galway

ALOA and CEFA supported by ETBI and SOLAS will host a one day collaborative conference

on Valuing and Evaluating non-Formal and Informal Learning.


Date: 21 November 2019

Venue: Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill Road Lower, Galway, Galway, H91 W295

The conference will cover key aspects of non-formal and informal learning from policy to practice, highlighting the value of learning and showcasing current tools and methodologies which measure the value of such learning on people’s lives.

Experts from Ireland and Europe will speak at the event and there will be four workshops to complement the theme.


Places can be booked through Eventbrite.

A Window Into The Creative Talents Of Portlaoise Women

Live original performances of spoken word and music from a Portlaoise mother and son rounded off the launch of a special exhibition of work in the Dunamaise Arts Centre last Thursday, March 2.
‘Window of Opportunity’ is a new project comprising artwork and storytelling, showcasing the talents of eight local women, all parents of children who are attending Scoil Bhride in Knockmay.

The project was run in Scoil Bhríde Knockmay in association with the Home School Community Liaison Officer in the school and Portlaoise Further Education and Training Centre.

As part of the project, the women wrote and illustrated short books for their children.
One of the talented first-time authors, Rhona Walsh read out her work at last Thursday’s launch, which saw a huge crowd turn out despite the inclement weather.

Rhoda dedicated the story, ‘The Buddy Bench’, to her five children, and at the conclusion of the event her 16-year-old son, Curtis, performed his original track, ‘Million Dollar Shakes’. Curtis, who attends the Academy of Popular Music in Cork, represented Laois at the Irish Youth Music Awards recently, and is the youngest person ever to have played at the Electric Picnic.

Besides Rhoda, the other women involved in the project are Ellen Momo, Karla Jordan, Deirdre Redmond, Edel Phelan, Nicole Delaney, Sabrina Bowden and Nicole Redmond.

Michelle De Forge, director of the Dunamaise, said that ‘Window of Opportunity’ was a fantastic project and the Dunamaise was really excited to have the group exhibiting on the wall of the centre used to host local artists.

Giving the women and their families complimentary tickets for a forthcoming show in the Dunamaise, Michelle expressed her hope that everyone would come back to the centre often.
“The door’s always open for you,” she said.

Deirdre Delaney, home school liaison officer with Scoil Bhride, congratulated the women on their achievement, and said there were tears of joy when they handed over the finished pieces.
Praising their hard work, she said she hoped the women continued to engage with future projects.

Kathleen Dunne, Adult Literacy Organiser with Laois Offaly ETB, congratulated tutors Denise Dunne and Mary Delaney, who gave their hearts and souls for the project.

Muriel Wall-Coughlan, principal of Scoil Bhríde, received copies of the women’s books for the school, and there are also copies for the county library.

The exhibition runs at the Dunamaise Arts Centre for the month of March.


Ryan Dunne


Three years ago, we were looking for a new way of encouraging students to engage in the enjoyment of reading.  We came across ‘The Six Book Challenge’, which is organised by the Reading Agency in England.  We looked at this programme and tailored it to suit our needs.  We had received a grant from Better World Books Fund and we used the grant to purchase the necessary resources to offer learners this programme.  These included diaries, Quick Reads, pens and an incentive to take part in the Challenge.

For the Reading Challenge to work, we needed a simple and effective tool to build local partnership, so the starting point was the local library. We wanted to encourage the use of the local library and we were fortunate that the staff at Killarney Library were delighted to help in whatever way they could.   They have been a great support to our Adult Literacy Centre.    There is now a partnership agreement with Kerry ETB and Kerry County Library to fund the printing of the diaries and the certificates.  The Reading Diary is the key element of the programme which students take pride in completing.

The Reading Challenge encourages less confident readers to pick six reads, record their reading in a diary and write a piece describing their experience in less than fifty words, in order to receive a certificate and an incentive.  There is no ‘set’ of books or resources for the Reading Challenge and no stipulation that only books can be used.  This is what makes this programme unique and so successful.

The whole aim is to engage students in text and that may be best achieved for new readers through books, magazines, newspaper articles, ebooks, poetry or social media.

A successful pilot programme was run in 2013.  After that, tutors (group and 1:1) were encouraged to introduce the Reading Challenge to their students.  This was a slow process but now the tutors see the benefits for their students in reading, writing, spelling, listening and speaking.  The Reading Challenge is a programme to be incorporated into the literacy class.  So from humble beginnings, forty two students completed the Reading Challenge in 2016 and the 2017 Reading Challenge is already underway.

Tutors and students need to take ownership of the Reading Challenge and instead of being a chore, it has become a nice way to finish the class session each week.

The benefits for the students are many –

  • It stimulates an interest in reading
  • Reading independently, often for the first time
  • Being able to read a story to your child at bedtime
  • Using the library – intergenerational taking your children or grandchildren to the library
  • Being able to express an option about a piece of reading, this in turn builds the student’s confidence.

Quote from a student

“Taking the time to sit and read has opened a new door in my life.  Wherever I go from here I will always have a book with me.  For me this has been a wonderful journey, it has helped to open up my mind again.”


Mary Concannon – Adult Literacy Organiser, Killarney (Kerry ETB)