Writers in Communities

The annual schools community project is about reading and writing, but it’s also about family, identity and culture. It’s about the relationship between writers and readers, and what happens when feelings and thoughts are explored through words. Through this project, we make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people.
Former CEO Catriona Ferguson.

Tamariki at St Joseph's School Otahuhu and author Vasanti Unka at the celebration of their 2018 Writers in Communities project

Our Writers in Schools programme has been running for nearly 50 years, and part of its success is down to our commitment to keeping things fresh and finding new and innovative ways to engage students in reading and writing. This was the starting point for our annual schools community project, now named Writers in Communities.

The journey started in 2013 when we began a conversation with the National Library and the Reading Together programme. We were discussing ideas for collaborative projects which would make a real difference in a community. This project is the result. It gives students the chance to get up close and personal with some wonderfully creative writers, and it is also uncovering some budding young authors and illustrators.

Schools host an author-in-residence over terms three and four. The authors encourage and inspire the students to develop their creative writing talents, and help them to publish their work in a series of anthologies.

I love working with the children to get their perspectives and experiences of the world down on paper. I look forward to every visit to the school. Their good humour, high spirits, and willingness to work and improve make my sessions there happy, productive and energising.
Paula Morris, writer.

Families in the community also have the chance to participate in workshops, exploring the ideas their children write about. They give the writers suggestions of what might draw their children out. And some, much to their own surprise, do some writing themselves.

And let’s not forget the teachers – over 100 of them enjoy writing workshops and professional development sessions with our five writers, which spark ideas to get their students enjoying all that a good book has to offer.

Classroom teachers who are giving out every day crave nourishment, and you provided it in spades.
Liz Horgan, St Joseph’s Principal.

The projects culminate in a celebratory book launch for students and their families.

Read about the book launch from the St Bernadette's School (Naenae) project with Moira Wairama in 2019.

Read More than a book, a piece about the Flat Bush School Writers in Communities project with David Riley in 2020.

In recent years, our Writers in Communities projects have expanded to include language communities, too. In 2021, with Ministry of Education support, we ran Writers in Communities projects with the Cook Island community in South Waikato, a Fijian community in Wellington, among others.

Stories of Pito Planted: a review of Te Kinakina on Pantograph Punch

Participating schools and writers

  • 2015: Fairburn School (Paula Green), Panama Road School (Grace Teuila Evelyn Taylor), Ōtāhuhu Primary (Vasanti Unka), St Joseph’s Ōtāhuhu (Lino Nelisi), Ōtāhuhu Intermediate (Paula Morris)
  • 2016: Fairburn School (Tony Williams), Panama Road School (Melinda Szymanik), Ōtāhuhu Primary (Vasanti Unka), St Joseph’s Ōtāhuhu (Selina Tusitala Marsh), Ōtāhuhu Intermediate (Paula Morris)
  • 2017: Fairburn School (Janice Marriott and Zechariah Soakai), Panama Road School (Melinda Szymanik), Ōtāhuhu Primary (Vasanti Unka), St Joseph’s Ōtāhuhu (Selina Tusitala Marsh), Ōtāhuhu Intermediate (Siobhan Harvey), Featherston School (Fifi Colston), South Featherston School (Jan Farr), St Teresa’s School (Philippa Werry)
  • 2018: Fairburn School (Sue Copsey), Panama Road School (Melinda Szymanik), Ōtāhuhu Primary (Zechariah Soakai), St Joseph’s Ōtāhuhu (Vasanti Unka), Ōtāhuhu Intermediate (Daren Kamali), Pahiatua School (Ali Foster), Balance School & Pongaroa School (Diana Neild), Mangataioka School (Jan Farr), Mangatainoka School (Jan Farr)
  • 2019: Papatoetoe Intermediate (Vasanti Unka) and St Mary MacKillop School (David Riley)
  • 2020: Papatoetoe Intermediate (Vasanti Unka) and Flat Bush School (David Riley)
  • 2021: Hato Pāora College (te hā with IIML) and Pacific Advance Secondary School (David Riley, Reading Warrior)

For more information on Writers in Communities, please email our Programmes Manager, Simie Simpson: simie@read-nz.org