Local stories recommended by teachers

Issue: Volume 101, Number 8

Posted: 30 June 2022
Reference #: 1HAUp4

A new digital catalogue offers recommendations for New Zealand books and accompanying resources for students Year 7 and up.

Reading Stories from Aotearoa New Zealand is a collaboration to encourage the uptake of New Zealand titles in the classroom.

Reading Stories from Aotearoa New Zealand is a collaboration to encourage the uptake of New Zealand titles in the classroom.

A new tool for teachers has been designed to give students a chance to see themselves and their stories in the classroom.

A collaboration between three organisations, Reading Stories from Aotearoa New Zealand  is a digital flip-book freely available for sharing and printing.

With funding from the Mātātuhi Foundation, the project was instigated by Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, and informed by a panel of eight English teachers from diverse schools around the country, facilitated by the New Zealand Association of Teachers of English (NZATE).

A love for literature

Teacher voice and their representation of students was paramount in developing the catalogue, and each selected title has an accompanying resource for free download, most of which were written by the teachers involved.

Laura Borrowdale is an English teacher, community leader and within school lead in Te Taura Here o Ōtautahi Kāhui Ako at Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery in Christchurch. 

She is also a writer and a passionate reader, particularly of New Zealand fiction. As part of NZATE, Laura led the selection panel to ensure that every book chosen had a championing classroom teacher behind it.

“I am hoping that this resource empowers and encourages teachers to seek out new texts that better represent our rangitahi,” she says.

Laura explains that teachers on the selection panel represent the range of schools in Aotearoa across socioeconomic groups, state and state-integrated, co-educational and single sex, each with their own diverse range of students.

She says that for a small country, we’re lucky to have a vibrant and productive literary scene, but that can make it hard for a busy classroom teacher to stay on top of new and appropriate texts as they are published.

“Having a living, up-to-date list of books that represent our place and our people has never been more important,” Laura writes in her introduction. 

“Building a love of reading and books is vital for lifelong learning and a rich sense of self.”

Ruth Richardson (Ngāti Wai) is a kaiārahi and teacher of English at Glendowie College. She values the way that books open up the world for every reader, expanding their view of what is known or lived or possible. 

An integral part of the selection panel, Ruth also wrote some of the teaching resources, and hopes her colleagues will find them useful and encouraging.

“We are enthusiastic readers and teachers. We hope that comes across clearly in our resources and that they help or inspire you to find ways into the texts which feel authentic to you and your students,” she says.

“Ultimately, we hope that you will be enthused to keep reading literature from our Aotearoa New Zealand storytellers and discovering more for yourself. 

“New texts can feel like a gamble sometimes but they can give teachers an opportunity to engage their students in current issues of public interest. Worth the risk, I think.”

From fantasy adventures to political essays

The catalogue is divided into seven sections, including novels and poetry for junior readers, collections, senior fiction, non-fiction and short stories.

Ruth herself was introduced to a new book to share with her students.

“I am currently teaching Two Hundred and Fifty Ways to Start an Essay about CaptainCook by Alice Te Punga Somerville, an alumna from our school, and I am so grateful to the panel for introducing me to this important work about Cook’s controversial legacy,” she says.

“Other personal favourites are  National Anthem  by Mohamed Hassan and Black Marks on a White Page by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti. All the texts I found myself drawn to were offering us an opportunity to expand our vision of who we are as a nation and to consider how to engage across lines (or perceived lines) of social division with humility.”

New Zealand books recommended in the catalogue for seniors.

New Zealand books recommended in the catalogue for seniors.

Why local?

In a rich world of literature, why is it important to introduce our students to books from this place?

Ruth points to a 2017 e-tangata interview with author Alice Te Punga Somerville who noted “our stories, and the stories that we tell, and the stories that others tell about us, ultimately create and shape who we are.” 

Ruth believes it’s also about empowerment. 

“Local texts serve as examples of our voices in the world. If we want our students to value their voices then we can show them people who are like them, from places like theirs, who have used their voices first.”

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura CEO Juliet Blyth plans to review the selection on an annual basis and looks forward to feedback from teachers.

“This project has offered us insight into how deeply committed and thoughtful the teachers on our selection panel are – and our hope is that the resulting resource will encourage others to choose a local book to explore,” she says.

“We’re proud of the rich resource we’ve created together and would love to know if it led to a change in your English department, so do keep in touch with us.”

Laura puts it succinctly: “Be inspired! Explore this list for your own reading interest as well. The teachers who made it loved working on it.”

Read, download, share or print Reading Stories from Aotearoa New Zealand  at issuu.com/readnztpm(external link).

Junior books

About Read NZ Te Pou Muramura 

Established in 1972 as the NZ Book Council, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura wants to foster a thriving and inclusive reading culture in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

They say reading is a superpower that feeds imaginations and broadens horizons, and one of the most accessible and affordable arts activities with well-documented benefits. 

To arrange an author visit to your school or to be part of other programmes, visit read-nz.org(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:02 AM, 30 June 2022

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