“Happiness fills our street, people breathe it in like sweet air.”
"... Across the road there’s a corner dairy. That’s the shop where the FBS kids go after school. I can just imagine the shopkeepers at 3pm when school finishes, getting ready for the kids to come tumbling through the door. “Wow!” the children say as they enter, as if they’ve never been there before."
In This Special Place, ten children from Flat Bush School share what they love about growing up in Ōtara, South Auckland.
The book is the end result of a special writing project at the school with author David Riley. As well as reading and writing together, the project also involved visits by professional writers and artists including RNZ journalist Indira Stewart.
David worked with the students during the second and third terms of this year. Some of that time was during lockdown – meaning they met online too.
“One of the key people in this project was the classroom teacher who was running it through the school side. She was making sure the kids turned up to the online meetings, and she really encouraged them with it. It wouldn’t have been possible without her,” he says.
With the brief of describing their home, family and wider community, the young writers drew on their own everyday experience to create pieces of creative and autobiographical writing for This Special Place.
Visits from special guests such as Indira Stewart helped reinforce the value of their own stories.
“Indira talked about her professional work and really encouraged the children to back their own stories,” says David.
He says working with young writers inspires his own creative work.
“It inspires me to be placed with all these amazing people who input into my life – these children, the school staff, and everyone else who makes it happen – it’s just a real blessing to be involved in such a special project.
‘’To whom much is given, much will be required’’ is a passage from Luke 12:48 that resonates with David.
“I know I had a privileged upbringing – much is required for me to give back as well. And in the giving back, there is growing for me,” he says.
“I just want to do as many of these projects as I can. It’s so cool to see more young Pasifika and Maori kids who want to be writers and published authors.
“I feel a sense of urgency – just to do as much as I can while I can. I just want to do more projects like these and encourage new voices to write and be published.”
The brand new book was launched last week at the school. Planning the event, Principal Banapa Avatea asked the students for their party ideas.
“Yummy food, our families and… a bouncy castle,” was their reply. Principal Avatea made all three happen.
“The photos can’t really capture what it felt like – it was really amazing,” says David.
“The whole community came out to celebrate the kids.”
“It’s much more than just a book. It’s all connected to culture, family and other people in the community, and the launch was a true celebration and reflection of everybody involved.”
Read NZ was thrilled to support the work as a Writers in Communities project.
Find copies for sale by clicking here.