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Cork’s library cat Eugene Eyebrow helps kids celebrate difference

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Image by Ernie A. Stephens from Pixabay

Following our Global Local Recap on libraries and the role that they play in bringing communities together, Senior Executive Library Breda (Brigid) Hassett wrote to us about an initiative of Cork City Libraries in Ireland that helps families with hearing impaired children or parents read a children’s book together. In honour of National Irish Sign Language Day on 14 December, we wanted to share the story of a very cool cat and how he’s helping children and families celebrate difference.

The children’s book Eugene Eyebrow, written by Breda Hassett and illustrated by artist Mary O’Shea was sponsored by the Dormant Account Fund. It was interpreted in ISL and presented in video format with subtitles and voiceover as part of Cork City Libraries in support of Irish Sign Language Awareness Week in September 2021.

Life is hard for a young cat with pointy eyebrows, as Eugene Eyebrow discovers. Bully cats Trevor and his gang The Meows mock Eugene’s unusual look. When Eugene learns to love his own eyebrows, he becomes the coolest cat in school!

Breda told us: “The video available on our library website allows parents with children that can hear and who are hearing impaired access the same story at the same time and so have a shared storytelling experience.This is something not always possible for families where children are hearing impaired and not hearing impaired but want the same storytelling experience.”

We asked her what inspired her to write the book and she told us: “Having a hearing impaired child that was bullied because of his hearing aids I was inspired to write the book from a story I used to tell my son when he was young. The eyebrows for him represent hearing aids and believe it or not he was once put in a dust bin by bullies!”

Breda continued: “So given the message about being confident about yourself and your own appearance is so important, it’s nice to do it as a story rather than some of the blunt material on bullying that’s out there for children. Subtle reinforcement using entertaining stories as a medium to convey a message is key.”

The local school for hearing impaired children in Douglas attended the Douglas Library for a special viewing before the Library opened to the public because of Covid restrictions. Parents with hearing and hearing impaired children welcomed the accessibility of the story as a shared family activity. Eugene Eyebrow is available on Borrowbox and in hard copy in all branches of Cork City Libraries and to borrow nationally on the Encore website.

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