Ben Brown on the beach.
Writer Ben Brown is the inaugural Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador. Image credit: All rights reserved. Used with permission.

About Te Awhi Rito

Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador advocates for and champions the importance of reading for young New Zealanders, their whānau and communities. Ben Brown is the current Te Awhi Rito.

Ben Brown Te Awhi Rito

The first Reading Ambassador, announced on 4 May 2021, is writer Ben Brown. Ben (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) writes children's books, non-fiction, poetry and short stories for children and adults. Born in Motueka (1962), the father of two has been a tobacco farm labourer, tractor driver and market gardener. Since 1992, he has been a publisher and writer, collaborating with the illustrator, Helen Taylor, in most of his 17 publications. Ben is a regular in the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura's Writers in Schools programme.

Many of Brown's books have a strong New Zealand nature background. Brown and Taylor were short-listed in 2005 for the Te Kura Pounamu Award in the LIANZA Children's Book Awards for Nga Raukura Rima Tekau Ma Rima, the Te Reo edition of Fifty-Five Feathers. The English edition was also shortlisted for the Russell Clark Award in 2005. He was awarded the Māori Writer’s Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre for 2011.

In 2020, Brown presented the annual Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Pānui (lecture) titled ‘If Nobody Listens Then No One Will Know’, which received widespread acclaim. His Pānui affirms the vital importance of writing, reading and knowing each other through our stories; it explores the complex concept of youth justice in Aotearoa.

In early 2020, Brown taught a writing workshop at Te Puna Wai ō Tuhinapo, the Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice Residence facility at Rolleston near Christchurch. The workshop was part of Writers in Youth Justice, a Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Writers in Communities programme. This workshop resulted in an anthology of poetry by the YPs (Young People) who took part titled How the F* Did I Get Here, edited by Brown.

Find out more on the National Library website

About the role

As a national reading role model, Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador will build visibility and awareness of reading across all sectors in Aotearoa New Zealand, helping to create a nation of readers.

Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador aims to:

  • inspire, empower and mobilise powerful, positive reading experiences for children, young people, whānau, and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • deliver and support reading programmes and events, including those underway in the National Library and with other partnerships and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • work with and make connections between the many organisations involved in reading, literacy, literature, and the wellbeing of young people and their whānau
  • build appreciation of, access to, and growth of stories and literature that reflect Aotearoa New Zealand. This includes helping increase the creation of and access to reading resources in Te Reo Māori and the diverse languages and cultures of Aotearoa
  • connect and work with the network of reading ambassadors and children’s laureates across the globe.

Te Awhi Rito is appointed for a two-year term. The National Library provides ongoing coordination and support, and Te Puna Foundation, the fundraising body for the National Library, provides funding for the role.

Partner group

The National Library of New Zealand leads the Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador initiative in collaboration with 4 foundation partners:

  • Te Puna Foundation
  • Read New Zealand Te Pou Muramura
  • Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa
  • Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki o Aotearoa.

The partner group provides ongoing advice and support to the Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador and steers the development of the programme of activities.

Ben Brown in the media

Here are some interviews with and about Te Awhi Rito Ben Brown.


For media, event or general enquires about Te Awhi Rito, contact