A 15-YEAR-OLD Kinsale student, who has scientifically proven the benefits of reading, is launching a charity so that children of all ages and backgrounds in this country can discover the magic of books.
Sarah Fitzgerald, a TY student at Kinsale Community School, has just trademarked her concept, called Book Cloud, and is collaborating with academics and Government figures to get it off the ground.
The idea is similar to the well-established and successful Food Cloud, which sees retailers donate food, close to its sell-by date, to charities for distribution.
Sarah explains how Book Cloud would recycle old, unwanted books, which, through collaboration with libraries and other central locations, would be distributed to children through charities and government schemes.
She got the idea on a visit to Walker Books publishing house in the UK in 2018, where they told her about the Book Trust scheme.
“The scheme sees every child in the UK by the age of six months gets a box of books delivered to them, free of charge, which promotes literacy.
“It helps kids from all ages, religions and backgrounds who may not be able to afford books, the opportunity to read some books and by reading books, they are better prepared for going to school.
“They were shocked to learn that the scheme was not in place in Ireland, which sparked my idea,” said Sarah.
She is no stranger to making headlines for her extensive research into young people and reading and has been widely lauded for her work in this area.
Sarah is a seasoned participant in the BT Young Scientist competition and this year showcased a project with her friend Anna Peare, looking at the link between reading and problem solving.
A previous competition entry by her looked at the decline of reading among young people.
The young trailblazer was also invited by the Government to attend the launch of the ‘First 5’ early years strategy in recognition of her work in promoting reading among children as an alternative to screen time.
Interestingly, Sarah does not have any social media accounts and, while she has a mobile phone, she says she rarely uses it.
She also submitted a 10-point submission to the former Minister for Children Katherine Zappone which includes her Book Cloud idea and other ideas which she hopes may influence policy-making.
In it she says: “I’m not against technology. I think technology is good and important. STEM is important, it helps us to improve processes, but an over-reliance on smart phones and social media is a distractor for concentration levels, communication levels and can lead to online bullying, and people are missing valuable moments in their life and have access to the wrong type of material through their smart phones.
“Of course they are needed for emergencies, to ring your mum or dad, but there is definitely an over-reliance and my research data has proven this.”
She further points out: “People who read for pleasure are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, and reading has been proven to reduce stress levels by 68% in times of severe anxiety.
“People who read books also live for around two years longer than those who don’t.”
She has also met with former Minister Regina Doherty to discuss her Book Cloud idea and is now very focused on getting it operational with some friend volunteers and the help of the Lions Club International.
Not surprisingly, Sarah is a self- proclaimed book worm: “I have loved reading all my life, having been read to as a child. It is important not to undermine the importance of a good habit and a good example; had my parents not read to me as a young child, I doubt I would be where I am today!”
For more see sarahsbookproject.com