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Who we are

Reading makes life better.

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura helps grow generations of readers by advocating for reading in Aotearoa New Zealand and delivering programmes that incentivise reading and writing in schools and communities.

We run campaigns to encourage New Zealanders to read; research our reading habits and barriers to reading; and advocate for the importance of reading.

We also champion New Zealand storytelling in all its forms through our school and arts sector programmes.

Our special name expresses the concept of moving from darkness into light, as told in the Māori creation story. This metaphor can also be used to describe what happens during the process of reading.

'Muramura' is a glowing ember, flame or blaze, and 'pou' is an upright supporting post or pole. Te Pou Muramura speaks to the sustenance of a blaze, in the way that reading can spark a glow or light in our minds.

Students listening to Gavin Bishop speak as part of Book Week in 2021

Our impact in 2023

Our Writers in Schools programme took 82 writers and illustrators to schools in every corner of Aotearoa, reaching 59,677 students

1,061 school staff from 151 schools joined us for the first ever Teachers' Reading Challenge, reading over half a million pages together

Our Hooked on Books He Ao Ano programme expanded, with its very own coordinator, Natalya, working to make the scheme by and for teens

The School Library published an astonishing 221 reviews to help schools curate their book collections

Inimitable storyteller and inspiration to generations Mona Williams delivered the 2023 Pānui to a packed-out National Library auditorium

We added to our impressive library of 700+ Writers Files, a key source for data on Aotearoa’s authors and illustrators, with eleven new entries

Our new website launched in May and our first ever marketing campaign, ‘Reading makes life…’, hit hundreds of thousands of digital and out-of-home screens across Aotearoa in October 

We hosted twenty senior students from around Pōneke at the Katherine Mansfield House for the Rebel Girls of Aotearoa Literature workshop, a day of creative writing with rebel girls Ruby Solly, Joy Holley and Rose Lu

We supported a number of partners with important initiatives such as the Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Storytime’ series, and literary festivals and events across Aotearoa

“There is something quite incredible when kids realise they have met the author or illustrator - it turns the books from a thing into something living...It makes them realise there is a person behind them...”
- Teacher feedback

We evaluate the impact of our work in many ways, to ensure that we are always making the biggest difference for the people we are trying to reach:

  • We conduct structured evaluation of our programmes and use the findings to inform future mahi
  • We monitor the reach of our programmes, ensuring we are engaging communities across Aotearoa New Zealand
  • We review and share external research to ensure our work builds on the most up-to-date evidence
  • We undertake our own research to help understand how we are reading and how we can encourage more New Zealanders to read more
  • We work with other organisations to help amplify our work.
Writer David Riley at Mangere Central School
“We did a session with David Riley. Right after this session kids were running out of the classroom and into the library, going to the librarian and saying, 'Have you got some good books for us because we want to change our lives!' She had a big display of all of David’s books; the kids were saying 'how many can I take?' And they knew where to go to get them.”
- Teacher, Mangere College

Our history

Established in 1972 as a response to the UNESCO International Year of the Book, Fiona Kidman was the founding secretary of the New Zealand Book Council. Under her wise guidance and that of the first honorary president the late Sir Keith Sinclair, the organisation delivered a range of programmes and initiatives aimed at increasing interest in books and reading and the profession of writing.

In her 2022 Pānui, Kidman explains its genesis:

“I answered an advert in the newspaper’s Situations Vacant column for the job as first secretary or organiser of the New Zealand Book Council. I was interviewed by Roy Parsons, of Parsons Books on Lambton Quay…

“Under the general umbrella of the New Zealand Book Trade, an organisation drawn from the national booksellers and publishers associations, the Council was honouring International Book Year. Its purpose was to link booksellers, publishers, writers, educators, and librarians, to discuss and act upon book related issues of common interest. The Council planned to reach disadvantaged readers through its activities, as well as pursuing the more commercial strand of increasing interest in books and attracting higher sales.”

“Roy asked me to comment on these aims and ambitions. I wondered aloud if it might be worth inviting writers to go and talk to school kids about writing. Call it Writers in Schools, I suggested. Roy nodded vigorously. ‘I’m going to recommend you get this job,’ he said.”

In 1973, the Council delivered ‘Operation Book Flood’ where 500 books were distributed to many classrooms in South Auckland and the impact evaluated. The greater availability of books stimulated students to read and their literacy improved.

Joining Sinclair on the Board were noted educationalists Dr Clarence Beeby and Patrick Macaskill.

Writers in Schools got underway from 1973, with Noel Hilliard, Margaret Mahy, Mona Williams and Joy Cowley among the first touring authors. That same year, the Council ran a seminar called The Changing Shape of Books, a collection of talks where literary leaders tried to guess what lay ahead for their sector.

In the mid-1990s, Kidman, then a working author, was appointed chair of the board. During this period, new programmes such as Writers Visiting Prisons and Words on Wheels were added to existing activity.

In the 2000s, the Book Council Lecture (now Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Pānui) was revived and is now an annual tradition, delivered by a range of authors including Eleanor Catton, Ben Brown (Ngāti Māhuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) and Lani Wendt Young.

In 2019 The New Zealand Book Council became Read NZ Te Pou Muramura. Today Read NZ Te Pou Muramura remains true to the kaupapa of our founders. We retain a deep commitment to promoting reading for pleasure, and the benefits of, to all communities of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura is governed by a passionate and active Board of Directors, supported by Patrons Albert Wendt ONZ CNZM; Dame Fiona Kidman DNZM OBE; and Chair Emeritus Peter Biggs CNZM.

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Children reading c1960 - Archives New Zealand

Why reading?

The benefits of reading for pleasure – that is, reading we do of our own free will purely for enjoyment - are lifelong for children and for adults, for the individual and for the collective good. 

Put simply, reading for pleasure makes us smarter, happier, and healthier. 

The role of reading for pleasure for our tamariki is strongly associated with their learning and development. 

Reading for pleasure is strongly associated with achievement in literacy skills.

Reading is one of the most accessible arts activities to exist. It is a proven poverty buster, leading to better literacy and improved overall education levels, to social, cultural and economic wellbeing.

The OECD considers a love of reading to be the most important indicator of the future success of a child, more important even than socio-economic status. 

Reading for pleasure makes us happier. It is strongly correlated with positive impacts on mental health and wellbeing, including improving relationships with others and feeling connected to one’s identity and community.

Reading for pleasure builds stronger communities, reading fiction builds empathy – growing understanding of ourselves and importantly, of others.

Reading for pleasure has health benefits too, including reducing stress. Mindlab International’s research found that tension eased and heart rates slowed down in subjects who read silently for as little as six minutes.

Our programmes are a vehicle through which people, especially children and young people, can fall in love with books and reading and help create a reading habit for life.

Research on the power of reading for pleasure