New Zealand Reading Ambassador will champion the importance of reading

August 10th, 2020. By Services to Schools staff

A new role of New Zealand Reading Ambassador for children and young people was announced by Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Jacinda Ardern, and Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, at a Celebration of Reading Event at the National Library in Wellington on 5 August.

The Reading Ambassador role, to be hosted by the National Library of New Zealand and funded by the Te Puna Foundation, will advocate for and promote the importance of reading in the lives of young New Zealanders, their whānau and communities.

2 Huntly College students speaking at the Celebration of Reading Event.
Tien Ngahere and Katie-Rose Janmaat from Huntly College speaking at the event. Image credit: Photo by Mark Beatty, National Library. All rights reserved.

The importance of reading

Addressing the event, Jacinda Ardern spoke about the impact reading for pleasure can have on a child's life:

We know from research that reading for pleasure makes a huge difference to a child’s wellbeing and their potential for life-long success — in personal relationships, education, health, and employment.

The most recent OECD Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) results also show a marked decline in reading for pleasure, with nearly half of New Zealand 15-year-olds never reading for enjoyment.

This makes it important for us to find ways to support educators, families, and whānau to build and sustain reading cultures in their communities, at the same time contributing to the Government’s wider efforts on child wellbeing and poverty reduction.

She finished with a quote from, arguably, one of the most well-known champions of reading and writing, children's author Dr Seuss:

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Prime Minister speaking at the event holding a book
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talking about a book gifted to her daughter Neve by Raya Tietjens-Hotter. Photo by Mark Beatty, National Library.

A sense of belonging or a place to escape

Students from Huntly College, who spoke at the event, shared what reading means to them. Katie-Rose Janmaat said that growing up in foster families, reading helped her find a sense of belonging that she felt starved of.

Tien Ngahere spoke of reading as his superpower:

It provides me with the strength to survive in the real world and holds me accountable when achieving my goals.

The soundproof room that is my imagination.

Reading as an important form of escapism was one of a couple of themes that emerged among the student speakers.

Our first national reading role model

Another theme mentioned by the speakers was the importance of reading role models — families and whānau, principals, librarians and teachers — so eloquently highlighted by Raroa Normal Intermediate student Ira Crampton:

Some kids in my classroom love reading even more than I do, but some do not. Great teachers like our Mr Johnston found ways of getting everybody excited about reading and writing.

But not everyone has a Mr Johnston.

The New Zealand Reading Ambassador will be a vital national reading role model, helping to champion the transformational power of reading in the lives of children and young people.

It complements the support National Library Services to Schools provides to schools through services, resources, and initiatives to encourage reading for pleasure, as well as the National Library's Communities of Readers.

The Ambassador role will be funded by Te Puna Foundation and supported by the National Library in collaboration with key partners, including Creative NZ and Read NZ. The inaugural recipient will be announced in early 2021.

Kate De Goldi — creating our first Reading Ambassador — award-winning children's writer, Te Puna Foundation Trustee and member of the organising panel, Kate De Goldi, speaks on RNZ about the new role.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, Elizabeth Jones, Tien Ngahere, Katie-Rose Janmaat, and Jean Cleaver-Paris looking at a display of children's books at the Celebration of Reading event
From left to right: Jacinda Ardern, Elizabeth Jones (Director of Literacy and Learning, National Library), Tien Ngahere, Katie-Rose Janmaat (at back), and Jean Cleaver-Paris (Wellington High School) looking at a display of children's books at the event. Photo by Mark Beatty. All rights reserved.