There are many opportunities for young folk in the city to engage in some literary bliss. Dunedin was the first city in New Zealand to open a Library especially for children and today, there still exists many cultural activities tailored to delight and incite. From birth right through to the teen years and beyond, Dunedin has an impressive range of events and activities that will inspire a lifelong love of learning, reading and writing. Wonderful public spaces, such as the University Book Shop’s Children’s Room, are open for business, with a relaxed family friendly vibe.


Atheneum Secondary School Poetry Competition

Over 150 years ago the Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institute took wide responsibility for the education of the Dunedin community by providing a library and classes for its members. Today, the Dunedin Athenaeum is one of the oldest surviving in New Zealand.

The Athenaeum essay competition was a major event in the early and mid 20th century. To celebrate the Athenaeum’s connection with Dunedin City and its literary heritage, the committee reinstated the competition as an annual event in 2012. The competition is open to all Year 12 students attending a Dunedin high school.

Books for Babies

Books for Babies is an initiative that highlights the importance of reading to babies. For over a decade, Dunedin Public Libraries has joined forces with Dunedin Public Hospital to provide a Books for Babies pack for every child lucky enough to be born in our fair city. This wonderful initiative is completely free of charge, and reflects our belief in introducing babies to books at an early age. Each pack contains a distinctive baby picture book, kindly donated by the University Bookshop, along with an information booklet for mother and baby. In addition to advice on hot topics such as modern cloth nappies, the booklet contains a space to record your child’s favourite stories and rhymes, free Library vouchers and a complimentary mother and child swim thanks to Moana Pool.

The Children's Room and Bookshop

At the back of the University Book Shop all sorts of magic has been happening! The University Book Shop has expanded the children’s section so children of all ages can re-discover a love of reading or extend the passion for books they already have.  The Children's Room is a must-visit for children and families. Why not time your visit so the little one can also enjoy a live storytime session - every Friday and Saturday at 10:30am.

Fortune Theatre

Centrally situated in a glorious historic church building on the corner of Moray Place and Stuart Street, Dunedin’s Fortune Theatre is the world’s southern-most professional theatre company. The Fortune is an excellent place for young people to learn and explore the theatre. Come and experience a tour around the theatre, join our ambassador programme, take part in our forum debates, talk to the cast and crew of a production or book a drama workshop. Our education workshops are show specific and are designed to link to a range of subjects within the New Zealand Curriculum and to NCEA achievement standards.

New Zealand Young Writers Festival

As social as it is serious, the NZYWF is a great opportunity to connect with like-minded literary types, through a mix of workshops, discussions, performances and parties.

Whether your literary idols include Eleanor Catton, Nicky Hager, or Hone Kouka, this is a chance to think about writing in all its forms, now and into the future. 

All events are free, so all you need to is get here, thanks to the generous support of Creative New Zealand, the Otago Community Trust, and the Dunedin City Council.

Robbie Burns Poetry Competition

The Robert Burns Poetry Competition is a collaboration between the Dunedin Public Libraries and The Dunedin Burns Club. Entrants are encouraged to write a poem in English or Scots, inspired by the life or works of Robert Burns and opportunities exist for entries under three categories; the young poet, the unpublished poet and published poets. Young poets must be aged between 5 and 17 years of age inclusive at the time of entry. Entries are judged by associates of the Robert Burns Fellowship and the winners are announced and presented with prizes on Robert Burns' birthday, 25 January.

The Storypit

What must it feel like to surround yourself with a collection of top notch picture books and to balance oneself on the branch of a tree with an owl beside you? This is what a little person can encounter in the Storypit at the City Library! A colourful carpet in the Storypit is an artwork itself and is also where live storytelling sessions take place on a weekly basis during term time. Pop on in to see for yourself and give your child an experience they will carry with them for the rest of their life.

Storytelling Adventures

Professional storyteller Kaitrin McMillan, runs a Storytelling Adventure time at subscribing preschools in Dunedin. Kaitrin helps children let their imaginations run wild by introducing them to a world of telling tales, a live literary extravaganza. Katrin offers a repeat free storytelling session in the public library nearest the centre, to reinforce and nurture a love of books and stories. An initiative of the Dunedin Public Libraries, this is a popular and well worthwhile experience for the little ones.

Storylines Festival

The Storylines Festival supports and promotes children’s literature in New Zealand. Catering for young people and the young at heart, it is an opportunity to meet some of NZ’s leading authors and illustrators. A magical day full of fun, a good dose of adventure and of generally having a jolly good time. Enter competitions, watch performances and listen to stories being read, or watch characters being drawn to life, by our very own talented literary people.

Storylines is the New Zealand National Section of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People), a non-profit organisation, which represents an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together.

Summer Reading Programme

Children just love to hear stories and there is no better way to hear them than at the many different free live sessions around the city. Every week our local storytellers spin a yarn on different themes sure to inspire and delight children of all ages. The University Book Shop has an open invitation to rediscover the magic in their new Children’s Room, the Dunedin Botanic Garden has begun telling tales, and Toitu Otago Settlers Museum reveals a museum full of stories and song. Preschool storytimes are also on offer weekly at the many public libraries, with the added bonus of a professional storyteller featuring at the City Library “Once Upon a Sunday”. Storytelling is a great way to capture a child’s imagination and harness creativity, while enhancing a child’s listening skills. Hip ray for stories!

Teen Space

Dunedin Public Libraries offers youth friendly multi purpose public spaces in their City and Mosgiel Libraries. Initially an experimental project to encourage teenagers to use the Library, the well known “Teen Space” has stood the test of time and is a popular space for youth of the city to read, relax, socialise, run events and basically do a lot of cool stuff! In the City Library, the Teen Space does not only house the latest books and music, the flexibility of the space allows it to be used as  a performance area, as well as an exhibition gallery for artwork. It has also become a regular venue for events, musicians, comic artists and film screenings. The Mosgiel Library’s Teen Space, is smaller yet similar to the area at the City Library, featuring comfortable retro furniture, original art, free access to the internet and the latest books, magazines and graphic novels.

Writers in Schools

The New Zealand Book Council's Writers in Schools programme sends top Kiwi writers and illustrators into schools all over New Zealand, with the support of Creative New Zealand, to inspire and encourage young readers. Many Dunedin schools are a member of the NZBC and local children benefit greatly from these inspiring sessions. Since 1974, this worthwhile initiative has encouraged the imagination and writing skills in children across the country. Find out how the programme works, and what your school needs to do to prepare for an author visit.


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