Writers in Communities

The Ōtāhuhu 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.
Previous NZ Book Council CEO Catriona Ferguson.

Our Writers in Schools programme has been running for more than 40 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 in Ōtāhuhu.

The Ōtāhuhu journey started in 2013, when we began a conversation with the National Library and the Reading Together programme which is Ministry of Education supported project based in low decile schools which encourages family and whānau to read to their children. We were discussing ideas for collaborative projects which 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, and it is also uncovering some budding young authors and illustrators.

Every year, schools in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland, 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.

Every year the project culminates in a celebratory book launch for students and their families at the Ōtāhuhu Pātaka Kōrero Ōtāhuhu Library.

Read our previous CEO Catriona Ferguson’s reflections on the 2015 celebration at Ōtāhuhu Pātaka Kōrero Ōtāhuhu Library.

Read author Paula Morris's experience of being a writer in residence for our 2015 community project.

Read author Melinda Szymanik's experience of being a writer in residence for our 2016 community project.

Participating schools and writers

  • Ōtāhuhu Intermediate hosted Paula Morris in 2015 and 2016, Siobhan Harvey in 2017 and Daren Kamali in 2018.
  • St Joseph’s Ōtāhuhu hosted Lino Nelisi in 2015, Selina Tusitala Marsh in 2016 and 2017, and Vasanti Unka in 2018.
  • Ōtāhuhu Primary hosted Vasanti Unka in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and Zechariah Soakai in 2018.
  • Panama Road School hosted Grace Taylor in 2015 and Melinda Szymanik in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
  • Fairburn School hosted Paula Green in 2015, Tony Williams in 2016, Janice Marriott and Zechariah Soakai in 2017, and Sue Copsey in 2018.

A variation on the Community Project programme is also running in the Wairarapa in partnership with REAP. The schools and authors involved there are:

  • 2017: Featherston School (Fifi Colston), South Featherston School (Jan Farr), St Teresa’s School (Philippa Werry)
  • 2018: Pahiatua School (Ali Foster), Balance School & Pongaroa School (Diana Neild), Mangataioka School (Jan Farr), Mangatainoka School (Jan Farr)

For more information on our annual schools community project, email our Programmes Manager Kathryn Carmody kathryn@bookcouncil.org.nz