Growing a nation of readers

Issue: Volume 101, Number 14

Posted: 1 November 2022
Reference #: 1HAXY5

When school’s out for summer, it’s time for students and teachers alike to enjoy some R&R (rest and relaxation). Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, National Library ’s Services to Schools would like to add an extra R to the holiday mix: reading.

An early love of reading supports future educational outcomes.

An early love of reading supports future educational outcomes.

According to the OECD, a love of reading can be more important for a child’s educational success than their family’s socioeconomic background. In Aotearoa, not everyone has the same opportunities to develop a love of reading, and young people’s reading for pleasure and levels of literacy are in steady decline.

As part of addressing inequities in access to libraries, National Library’s Services to Schools hopes to get books into the hands of as many ākonga and kaiako as possible during the long summer break. To make it even easier, books will be available over and above the usual term allocations – they won’t be due back until April 2023.

There is free online access to a huge range of books and advice from skilled National Library’s Services to Schools staff, and kaiako in Auckland and Christchurch will be able to borrow books from walk-in centres after school from 14 November to 9 December 2022.

“The summer reading programme is a joy and a celebration of reading. We have a huge, outstanding collection of books for children and young people. We’re really encouraging kaiako to read for their own pleasure and wellbeing and to explore the rich resource that we have for ākonga,” says Anne Morgan, national manager Reading Services to Schools.

“We have books in 17 different languages; home and heart languages; books for refugee and migrant students, and accessible collections in large print and dyslexic fonts,” she says.

Addressing the summer slide

While public libraries generally run summer reading programmes, National Library’s Services to Schools knows that not all tamariki and whānau visit libraries and hopes that by providing access to books and role modelling a love of books, teachers and schools will help to address this inequitable access.

“We see what we do as being a significant contribution to making books available to allow more kids to have access to books and to encourage people to connect with some of the on-the-ground programmes, whether public library or school programmes,” says Elizabeth Jones, director of literacy and learning for the National Library.

Role models and collaboration

The more that schools and communities understand their influence in creating young readers and the potential impact of reading for pleasure, the more effective they will be in encouraging and supporting reading. 

Collaboration is key: tumuaki, kaiako, school librarians, whānau and public libraries can all collaborate with each other to build communities of support that encourage reading.

“Some schools put together summer book bags. So it might be that schools do small things in terms of a summer reading programme. Others might put together a team – school librarian, literacy lead and students – and do a more sustained programme where they organise an event and distribute the book bags and talk about summer reading –
a festive thing,” says Jo Buchan, from the Communities of Readers project.

“Whānau, peers, teachers, librarians and community have huge influence as role models. They can make a difference through talking about books they have read, telling stories, sharing their own interest and joy in reading, reading with whānau of all ages, providing access to a range of great books and being seen reading themselves,” concludes Elizabeth.

To stock up on summer reading for yourself and your ākonga, visit link).


Communities of reading

Since 2019, the National Library Pūtoi Rito Communities of Readers initiative has been working to build reading engagement and address inequity of access to books by collaborating with local and national partners to co-create a collective approach. Projects were undertaken in four diverse areas throughout Aotearoa, with more planned for 2023. 

One of 30 Lilliput Libraries in South Dunedin.

One of 30 Lilliput Libraries in South Dunedin.

Read, Share, Grow in South Dunedin is one of the projects – it’s a partnership between Dunedin City Council, Methodist Mission Southern, Ministry of Education, the National Library of New Zealand, Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki.

“The thinking around reading was, how do we grow a nation of readers? This requires collaboration and it’s about bringing a strategically focused approach to how we build collaboration, capability, awareness and support while working with a whole lot of different people,” explains Elizabeth Jones.

Diverse communities

Read Share Grow has seen more than 16,000 books distributed through 120 early childhood education centres, schools, community groups and businesses in South Dunedin.

Bridget Schaumann works for National Library’s Services to Schools in Dunedin and says that a key finding from Pūtoi Rito is that there is a lack of diverse stories and books that tamariki and whānau from a range of cultures can relate to.

“We’ve learned that there’s a great need for diverse books – especially in Pacific languages – and for children to see themselves represented in story and picture books living their everyday lives. We know that there are just not enough of those books.  

“We’d love to encourage anybody who’s got a story in them to get it written so that kids can see the local stories. There are a lot of cultures that have an oral tradition with myths and legends passed down through families, but it would be wonderful if there were more books that a child could pick up in a school library and the family could share together,” she says.

Engaging tamariki and whānau

Last year, as part of the library’s summer reading programme, Read Share Grow developed a book trail featuring the 30 Lilliput Libraries in South Dunedin. Lilliput Libraries are a community initiative of small free libraries in the streets of Dunedin. People can take books for free and may add to the library if they wish.

Read, Share, Grow, a National Library Pūtoi Rito Communities of Readers initiative, is well supported by the community in South Dunedin.

Read, Share, Grow, a National Library Pūtoi Rito Communities of Readers initiative, is well supported by the community in South Dunedin.

“We’ve made a map so the kids go from Lilliput to Lilliput and tick off the ones they have been to. They can take books from there, or swap books out. They take their completed form to the South Dunedin Library where they can do activities and then they get a book,” says Bridget.

Pūtoi Rito continues to go from strength to strength in South Dunedin with the Read Share Grow team holding and attending many events, including the Lilliput book trail and book swaps which will be run again this summer.

“One of the success factors was that it was a joyful strength-based concept and approach – who doesn’t want wonderful, beautiful books? We’ve tried to ensure that we have books in home and heart languages, such as Farsi, Arabic, te Reo, Pasifika languages, to ensure kids have books they can identify with,” says Jo Buchan.

“We know there have been shifts in attitude, awareness, confidence; a real sense of pride and ownership by the community and a long-term commitment by the partners to keep going with this,” adds Elizabeth.


Pūtoi Rito Communities of Readers.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:18 pm, 1 November 2022

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts