Te Awhi Rito: The year that was – 2021–2022

August 25th, 2022. By Te Awhi Rito team, National Library

In his first year as the inaugural Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador, Ben Brown visited schools and kura, events and celebrations around Aotearoa New Zealand, sharing stories and highlighting connections between storytelling, reading aloud and reading.

Gifting language, literacy and identity

It was a busy first year for Ben Brown, the inaugural Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador. Despite COVID disruptions, Ben managed to visit schools and kura, events and celebrations around Aotearoa New Zealand. Wherever he went he shared stories and spoke of the connections between storytelling, reading aloud and reading and how they gift tamariki and rangatahi with language, literacy and identity — helping them find their place in the world. As Ben says:

I’m pretty certain about one thing — if a child grows up in an environment rich in stories, in shared time with parents, caregivers, siblings and role models who tell them stories, read them stories, share their experiences as part of the day to day life of that child, the chances are good that the child will remain engaged with reading to some extent, for the rest of their lives. Our work is not necessarily done in this instance, but for the child at least, I believe they face less disadvantage as they progress.

Should the path become obscured, or distraction lead them away, or if the path was never revealed to them in the first place, then education, encouragement and the positive reinforcement and support of parents/caregivers, teachers, and other role model readers coupled with ready access to relevant, quality resources backed up by motivated, knowledgeable, well-funded public institutions should be our baseline for tools in the toolbox.

Ben Brown at Waimana School.
Ben Brown at Waimana School during his Whakatane visit. Image credit: Kodi Hapi. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Highlights from Ben’s first year as Te Awhi Rito



  • We Read Auckland | Ka Pānui Tātau i Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland Council Libraries – Ben in conversation with Ineka Vogels for Auckland Council Library staff.

Ben was a very passionate presenter — it encouraged me to want to read more to my kids and the difference it can make to them. Ineka did a wonderful job of hosting and interviewing.
– Event participant

  • Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) Conference – Keynote speaker on the theme of ‘Disruption’.


  • Storylines 2022 New Zealand Writers and Illustrators’ Hui – Keynote speaker.
  • Stuff documentary — Ben was filmed for a short documentary Ben Brown: Making Stories about his writing and his role as Te Awhi Rito for Stuff.
  • Autobiography rereleased — An updated edition of Ben’s autobiography A Fish in the Swim of the World launched in Christchurch.


  • Phantom posters campaign of the Tauparapara o Te Awhi Rito in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
  • Northland Storylines Tour – Ben visited 36 schools and presented to approximately 2,650 students and teachers.
  • Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival – Panel guest.
  • Rangiora Public Library – Presenter for Matariki celebration.
  • SLANZA Professional Development Day, Christchurch – Speaker.
  • Te Awhi Rito website launched.


  • Whakatane visit – Ben visited 5 rural kura and schools outside Whakatane: Te Kura o Tāneatua, Te Kura o Te Paroa, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Orini ki Ngāti Awa, Waimana School and Allandale School as part of the 10-year birthday of Te Kōputu a te whanga a Toi | Whakatāne Library and Exhibition Centre.
  • Brisbane Writers Festival – Speaker.


Here are some media interviews about and with Ben from the previous year.


International Book Day / IBBY NZ – Ben featured in the global launch of International Children’s Book Day, a collaboration between IBBY Canada and IBBY New Zealand. Ben was in conversation with Jo-Ann Saddleback, Elder in Residence at Edmonton Public Library, followed by children’s story-time with 6 indigenous authors and readers from Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand.


Turanga: Children and Adults Network, Christchurch City Library – Speaker.



  • Ashburton College – Speaker.
  • What Now Awards Presenter – Award.
  • LIANZA National Conference – Provided the closing presentation at the LIANZA conference, in conversation with Kate De Goldi.
  • WORD Christchurch Festival – Presented the Margaret Mahy lecture.


  • Victoria University Law Society – Keynote speaker.


  • Huntly College, Festival of Stories – Speaker.

Read Ben’s blogs