Growing the next generation of readers and critics

Issue: Volume 99, Number 15

Posted: 18 September 2020
Reference #: 1HABGp

The rebirth of an established programme aims to grow the next generation of literary critics in Aotearoa and get them talking about books.

The American art critic Barbara McAdam writes that the ‘true calling’ of criticism is to start a discussion. Building a community of young readers who discuss books, and growing the next generation of critics is what Hooked on NZ Books(external link) is all about.

The programme, which is dedicated to literary reviews for and by young people, has been adopted by Read NZ Te Pou Muramura(external link) (formerly NZ Book Council). 

Hooked on NZ Books – He Ao Ano matches young readers with New Zealand-authored books, and publishes their reviews. In doing so, students have the opportunity to respond personally and critically to texts while building an extensive online resource of writing about Young Adult (YA) books and a genuine platform for their voice.

Established four years ago by the NZ Review of Books journal, Hooked on NZ Books is already a useful archive of reviews, author interviews and other writing resources for younger readers.

When the journal ceased publication in late 2019, its editors invited Read NZ to adopt the work.

Space for young writers 

Read NZ chief executive Juliet Blyth says the purpose of Hooked on NZ Books is to grow the audience for home-grown literature, to provide another space for young writers to be published and to nurture the next generation of critical readers in Aotearoa.

“Anyone can say that they loved or loathed a book, but it’s much harder to say why. Reviewing is important because well-argued reviews can influence what gets published and what gets read,” she says.

“We’re thrilled to be continuing the good work of Hooked on NZ Books and think the programme complements our existing work, such as Writers in Schools, beautifully.”

Tawa College student Hannah Marshall has submitted reviews to Hooked on NZ Books in past years. In a recent article about reviewing for Tearaway magazine, she describes the programme as a “springboard for a critical conversation”.

“A chance visit to my school from the organisation opened my eyes to a world of opportunities. I had barely read a Kiwi-written YA in my life; today, most of my favourite books are by New Zealand authors,” says Hannah.

“I gained valuable skills from the reviewing process and improved myself as a writer. I even found my name in print.”

A critical voice

Onslow College English teacher Lotus Hattersley has encouraged some of her senior students to get involved. She believes the programme provides an authentic platform to develop a critical voice for YA readers. 

“There aren’t many opportunities for this type of literary criticism to be fostered within this age group and I feel that this is an exciting and important change.”

She says the by-students, for-students aspect of the programme is important.

“I think if we are able to place more importance on building and empowering a distinctive, critical voice among our students, we are connecting them with a style of literature that is directed at them and allows their input on its direction,” says Lotus.

Read NZ is now looking for young readers and writers aged around 13 to 19 to participate. Interested reviewers can sign up on the Hooked on Books website, or contact Read NZ to get involved.

Completed reviews are subject to a supportive editing process with the Hooked on Books editor before being published on the site. Read NZ will also offer review-writing workshops around the country as part of its Writers in Schools programme.

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura is grateful to the Mātātuhi Foundation for a grant to help fund this work.

Hooked on books(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:56 am, 18 September 2020

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