Our Writers in Communities programme is one of the calendar highlights at the Book Council.
Yesterday we were honoured to attend the Ōtāhuhu launch of four special books written and published by students alongside visiting authors and their teachers. This year, those authors were Sue Copsey, Zechariah Soakai, Melinda Szymanik and Daren Kamali.
Ōtāhuhu's young writers read their work from the tapa-cloth adorned stage. From poems about mothers to pieces on friendship and the environment, the future of society and what happiness feels like: there were more than a few tears shed among those listening!
The children conjured strong images: a tree looking down on people below, chocolate-chip rain, the feeling of belonging to a family. Other students researched and wrote about the rich history of their rohe.
Every year, five low decile schools in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland host five diverse Aotearoa writers in residence over terms three and four. The writers encourage and inspire the students to develop their creative writing talents, and help them to publish their work in a series of anthologies.
The Ōtāhuhu journey started in 2013, when the Book Council began a conversation with the National Library and the Reading Together programme (which is a project based in low decile schools that encourages whānau to read to their children) about collaborative projects that would make a real difference in the community.
This project is the result. It gives students the chance to get up close and personal with some wonderfully creative writers, which helps provide some alternative role models for those children, and it is also uncovering some budding young authors and illustrators.
At the end of the project, the participating schools host a celebratory book launch for students and their families. Last night's launch, held at Ōtāhuhu Primary School, was a very special event attended by students and their whānau, teachers, principals, and authors Vasanti Unka, Zechariah Soakai and Sue Copsey.
The young poets read their work and Labour MP for Manukau East Hon Jenny Salesa addressed the audience afterwards.
The published books to be launched (one is still being completed)
Book Council Programmes Manager Kathryn Carmody
Author Sue Copsey with students from Fairburn School
MP Hon Jenny Salesa
Poet Zech Soakai with students from Ōtāhuhu Primary School.
The New Zealand Book Council wishes to thank the teachers, principals, students and whanau from Fairburn School, Panama Road School, Ōtāhuhu Primary and Ōtāhuhu Intermediate for their work and support.
We also wish to thank the authors involved for the help, love and creative energy that went into this special project.