Culture

University of Limerick professor named Champion of Reading

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Headshot of Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, an award-winning novelist and a professor at the University of Limerick, has recently been appointed the Champion of Reading for the Every Child A Reader campaign with Children’s Books Ireland. The project, in partnership with the RTÉ Toy Show and The Community Foundation for Ireland, seeks to encourage children to read more and to explore their creativity. Mrs. Moore Fitzgerald will bring her experience to Scoil Chroí Íosa, a primary school in Galway.

“It means a huge amount to me personally because of my conviction that reading and books are so important for kids,” she answers. “We know this in research, and we know it in practice that children who read for pleasure are so much more advanced in terms of vocabulary. It’s better for their well-being, they have higher levels of empathy, do better in school, and have better concentration spams – all sorts of wonderful things.”

One of the goals of this project is to reduce the lack of access to literature some children experience, Mrs. Moore Fitzgerald says “The terrible thing is that access to books and reading is unequal. Disadvantaged students are less likely to have access to a variety of really good books that they can choose from. They’re also less likely to find a character that they can see themselves in. The project Every Child A Reader is about increasing that access.”

Enthusiastically, she confides that as soon as she heard of the project, she was sold and was keen to get involved. “Many schools applied to be part of the project, and they selected four schools and four writers or artists so that each school has its own reading mascot – I’m one of those four.”

The launch was to introduce the children to the author, who will be paying them regular visits over the next three years. As part of the literary project, the school will be gifted 1000 books for its library. “The children are going to be playing a role in helping to choose which books they want to see in the library. By the end of the 3 years of the work that we do together in collaboration with the teachers, every single child in that school will be a reader, and it’s something that’s going to stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald at the programme launch
Sarah Moore Fitzgerald at the programme launch

Contemplating on the time she spent with the kids on the launch day, she says “Some children are really interested in non-fiction… Other children just want to read a good story… We can’t treat all the students the same, they’re all unique individuals, and we need to build a library that again will be a lasting legacy that will reflect that diversity.”

As we live in a digital era, it is especially important nowadays for kids to find pleasure in reading. “It’s just them and the books in a private corner, and they have full control and that’s kind of less usual in a world where everything is online, to disconnect and to immerse themselves in a story.”

Proudly, Mrs. Moore Fitzgerald points out, “It’s very unusual to be able to have a kind of long-term relationship with a school. For a writer to be connected to a school for 3 years, that’s magnificent, because normally you just get to talk to the kids for the day, tell them about your books or storytelling, and then you leave, whereas I’m going to be building a relationship with the students, the teachers, and with the principal, and a whole range of other people.”

The novelist sounds hopeful as she talks about the programmes, events, and activities that will take place over the next few years. “Part of my role will be to make sure that we put things in place that will last beyond the time frame of the project. A stronger network, a fabulous library curated and containing beautiful books that reflect the individuality of the students, a sense of confidence in incorporating reading for pleasure into the curriculum in all sorts of ways.”

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