13-year-old Kinsale Community School Student and Kinsale native, Sarah Fitzgerald is a finalist in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in the junior social and behavioural sciences category. Her project is entitled “A Statistical Investigation Into the Decline In Reading Among Ireland’s Youth and How We Can Prevent This From Impacting Future Generations.” This follows Sarah’s appearance on The Late Late Toy Show in December 2017 where she was selected to review the best selling children’s book “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.”
Sarah surveyed 1,000 students between the ages of five and sixteen years from Cork, Kerry, Galway and Dublin for her project. Speaking about her reasons for choosing the project topic, Sarah Fitzgerald said “I undertook this project as I have a strong passion for reading. Research and experience showed me that not enough adolescents were reading for pleasure. I want to educate more people on the benefits of reading. For example, an important finding is that reading can improve youth mental health as research shows that it stimulates the mind, improves memory, boosts concentration and reduces stress. Through my project, I have started an awareness campaign, and intend to submit my findings to the Oireachtas Education Committee promoting reading as a major contributor to wellbeing, which is supported by Jim Daly, TD, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People.”
Key findings in Sarah’s survey include the facts that 35% of those surveyed prefer to watch TV or use their phones than read, 43% of people didn’t join a library because it was too time consuming, 54% of those surveyed were not members of libraries and 45% of those surveyed who enjoyed reading read daily. Sarah’s survey also found that there was a decline in reading as children reached the ages of thirteen to sixteen years.
“My ultimate goal was to spread the gift and joy of reading to children and teenagers nationally. Firstly I had to understand why they don’t read and using this information, come up with possible suggestions, such as the introduction of more school libraries, a social book hub for reading on Saturdays and an awareness campaign through a book ambassador programme. Through my research I also found that in terms of literacy worldwide, Ireland is only ranked twenty fourth while Iceland is the third most literate nation in the world. I suggest that we introduce a book culture similar to Iceland’s where book exchanges are part of our holidays, such as Christmas Eve.” continued Sarah.
Sarah has had a life-long interest in books and reading. At the age of seven, Sarah wrote five short story books for children, which she sold at local markets and gave the proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House in Crumlin. For the past two years, she has been a book reviewer for The Southern Star and she is planning to write her first novel in 2018. As part of her appearance on the Late Late Toy Show, Sarah was given the opportunity to visit leading children’s book publishers, Walker Books and this visit to London will take place at the end of January. After the BTYSTE, Sarah will continue her research in the area of reading and will publish her findings and recommendations on her website: www.sarahsbookproject.com.