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29 August 2023

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura announces storyteller Mona Williams will deliver the 2023 Pānui

Mona discussing storytelling with children at Owhiro Bay School

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura is delighted to announce Mona Williams as the outstanding storyteller who will deliver its annual landmark Pānui address at the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa in November.

Mona has been a mainstay of the much-loved Read NZ Te Pou Muramura flagship programme ‘Writers in Schools’, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.

“Our development has been shaped by writers like Mona, and her voice and passion as a unique and gifted storyteller has been a big part of our journey,” says Read NZ Te Pou Muramura CEO Juliet Blyth.

“Mona has had a profound impact on thousands of tamariki across the motu across almost fifty years of visiting schools.

Her work has created a lasting imprint on the literature of Aotearoa New Zealand, including through dozens of stories for the School Journal, and is no less relevant now than when she began storytelling: she still performs from a kete of work that enraptures children and adults alike.”

Mona is originally from British Guiana (now Guyana) and arrived in New Zealand in 1971. She holds a BA in Mass Communications from Stanford University in the United States, was a Fulbright and Ford scholar, and has lectured at Massey University as well as teaching in primary and intermediate schools. Teachers commonly use words like “outstanding” and “spellbound” to describe Mona’s storytelling.

Mona’s Pānui address will be a celebration of storytelling’s power to build identity and to heal. It will encompass reflections on Mona’s family history and childhood (as recorded in her 1995 autobiography Bishops: My Turbulent Colonial Youth) and will present piercing insights from her life as a storyteller, performer, dancer, and mother in Aotearoa New Zealand, delivered in her signature flamboyant style.

The 2023 Pānui will be delivered at the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa on the evening of Wednesday 8 November, and subsequently published as a small book with limited distribution.

“We are thrilled to have Mona as the next in the kaleidoscope of voices that form the annual Pānui’s history,” says Juliet.

By providing an opportunity for writers and storytellers to consider and share on an aspect of reading and writing close to their heart, the annual Pānui (formerly known as the Book Council lecture) has become a landmark event in Aotearoa’s literary calendar.

Previous Pānui have been delivered by speakers as varied as Dame Fiona Kidman, Ben Brown, Lani Wendt Young, Renee, Witi Ihimaera, and Eleanor Catton.

For more information, visit


Established in 1972, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly known as the New Zealand Book Council) has been growing generations of readers in Aotearoa for more than fifty years.

We believe in the transformative power of reading for pleasure, and know that reading has the ability to improve social, cultural, and economic outcomes for all of us. We work to ensure that communities across Aotearoa participate in and experience reading, and to champion stories from and about New Zealand.

Our organisation delivers programmes that celebrate reading in schools and communities nationwide, including our flagship Writers in Schools programme, which sees around 40,000 students per year inspired to read and write by a visiting author. We also lead and collaborate on activities and campaigns that promote reading for pleasure.

Learn more at

For more information or to arrange comment or interviews, please contact:

Sarah Dillon
Communications and Engagement Manager
Read NZ Te Pou Muramura