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06 June 2023

Q&A: Rauhina Cooper

We had the chance to interview Tōku Whānau Rerehua author, Rauhina Cooper, about the process of writing the book, and the importance of teaching our tamariki acceptance and the value of differences.

Rauhina, we know you do amazing work in the education space. Please tell us a little about your background and experience, and how it informs your writing.

Kia ora, I am a mum, a Nan and an aunty to a continually expanding whānau, so when I think about how my background has informed my book, I definitely think it links back to my own whānau and the variety of relationships we have amongst us.

How did Tōku Whānau Rerehua come to be?

I remember going for a walk one day and the idea of writing a book about the many different and special types of whānau just popped into my head, which in hindsight probably developed from my own whānau relationships and people in my life. I talked about it with one of my friends and she encouraged me to have a go at writing the story. I shared the draft with a few people and they were all very positive and encouraging. I even read it to my tamariki and my nieces when they were younger.

We love that your book focuses on whānau of all kinds. Why do you think this message is so important for our tamariki?

If I reflect on my own whānau I think it is important for tamariki to feel included and know that it’s okay to be different and there is no normal. It also shows acceptance of differences and tamariki are naturally accepting.

Tōku Whānau Rerehua is bilingual, with Reo Māori appearing first on the pages. What led you to take this approach to the languages?

I wrote the original manuscript only in te reo Māori and the English translation came later when it was decided the book would be bilingual. I specifically asked for te reo Māori to be the first language because te reo Māori is important to me and having one more published book in te reo will encourage more readers of Māori to read the book… I hope.

We’re big fans of Izzy Te Aho White here at Read NZ Te Pou Muramura too! Can you tell us about working with Izzy to bring the book to life?

Yes, I agree Izzy is an exceptional illustrator. I have not yet had the privilege of meeting Izzy however when I was asked about who I would like to illustrate the story I asked for someone who could capture the hidden story within the words and show that through the images, and I believe Izzy did just that and more! She has put so much detail into the images such as the patterns on the backpacks and the classroom settings. The way she also depicted each character from the story is also amazing, we wanted to ensure we showed diversity in the images of the tamariki as well. Hopefully tamariki in Aotearoa can see themselves or someone they know in the pictures.

Tōku Whānau Rerehua launches just in time for Schools Pride Week. What is this event and why is it so significant?

Schools Pride Week is a celebration of events and activities to help tamariki from rainbow communities feel included and belong. Tōku Whānau Rerehua will be released on the 2nd of June which coincides with Schools Pride Week.

This is your first book–did you enjoy the process? What’s next from here?

Yes this is my first book and it has taken a while to get to this stage from the actual beginning. I had no idea of the process involved in publishing a storybook and almost gave up trying to find a publisher. Thankfully, the story resonated with Carolyn from Oratia and with her and the team’s guidance and support Tōku Whānau Rerehua will be published. What’s next? I do have some ideas for other stories along similar lines as Tōku Whānau Rerehua but I think I’ll just think on them for a while.

“I think it is important for tamariki to feel included and know that it’s okay to be different and there is no normal. It also shows acceptance of differences and tamariki are naturally accepting.”