Sammy the Caterpillar helps parents with the birds and the bees talk!

Sammy the Caterpillar helps parents with the birds and the bees talk!

An exciting, innovative project developed by Donegal Youth Service and the Donegal Library Service, and supported by HSE Health Promotion & Improvement was launched today at the Moyle National School in Newtowncunningham.

The project aims to encourage and support parents and guardians to have healthy conversations with their children about their bodies, sexuality and relationships, by providing a range of age-appropriate books in each of the Donegal Libraries and Taobh Tíre points.


Project Lead and Regional Director for Donegal Youth Service - Lorraine Thompson said that “This project will encourage parents to have conversations with their children on a topic that may be difficult for them.  We hope that parents will use the resources in their local library and feel more confident talking to their children about bodies, relationships and sexuality.”

Speaking at the launch, Maureen Kerr from Donegal County Library Service said that they were delighted to have worked in partnership with Donegal Youth Service and HSE Health Promotion and Improvement, to bring the Sammy the Caterpillar Guide to parents in Donegal.  She highlighted that all books listed in the guide are now available through the library network and the service looks forward to them being well used to support parents.

To accompany the library books, a ‘Sammy the Caterpillar - Guide for Parents and Guardians’ has also been produced, which explains why it is important to start these conversations with children at an earlier age and build on the information as children grow.  The guide lists the books available to borrow for a variety of stages up to the age of 19, and gives suggestions for what children need to know and tips to get these conversations started. 

The guide emphasises that each parent or guardian knows their child best and acknowledges that this topic can be challenging for parents for a variety of reasons.  However, it also points out that research   indicates that ‘parents who discussed relationships and sex openly with their pre-teen children found it easier to communicate with them as they grow’.  It also highlights that  ‘good sex education at home and in school can increase the likelihood that teenagers will wait until they are 17 or older before they have sex and that they will use contraception when they do’. 

Left to right: Lorraine Thompson DYS Regional Director, Maureen Kerr Donegal County Library, Moyle NS Principal Pauline Edwards, Anne McAteer HSE Health Promotion and Improvement, Elsie Smyth Board of management Moyle NS, Melanie Keaveney Moyle NS teacher  and Lisa O’Hagan HSE Health Promotion Officer,

Age-appropriate Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is mandated for delivery by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) from Infants to sixth class in Primary School and throughout Secondary School.  RSE aims to teach children about relationships, sexuality and their own growth and development.  This project will support parents and guardians, the primary educators of their children, to have parallel conversations about these topics at home, in a way that can reflect their own family values.

In welcoming the launch of the initiative, Pauline Edwards – Principal of Moyle highlighted that “that RSE is about a lot more than the nitty gritty “sex” stuff. It’s about our feelings, our relationships with ourselves and others. It’s about respect, having respect for ourselves and others. It’s about responsibility, making decisions and knowing that there are consequences.  Most of all it’s about changing and growing .  This is not a subject that can ever be the sole responsibility of the teacher or a school to manage. There is a vital role that can only be played by parents. Parents can share their belief system with their child and give them answers to questions that go beyond a teacher’s remit.”  

All Donegal Primary Schools have received information about the project and can order ‘Sammy’s Guide’ to give to parents when they are linking in with them as part of the School’s RSE programme. Copies of the guide are also available at each of the Donegal Libraries and Taobh Tíre points. 

Left to right: Lisa O’ Hagan HSE Health Promotion Officer, Parent as part of the consultation process Michelle Sweeney, Maureen Kerr Donegal County Library, Lorraine Thompson DYS Regional Director, Sheena Boyle-Laverty School Completion Officer

This project was funded by a National Lottery grant administered by the HSE, and Donegal Library Service.