Reading fun in any language

By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Monday November 2, 2020

Finding children’s books written in the numerous languages spoken by South Dunedin’s increasingly diverse residents has been challenging, but the Communities of Readers Project has come to the rescue.

Children aged 3-7 in South Dunedin have started receiving books in their schools and early learning centres as part of the project, which aims to build and cement the concept of reading for pleasure.

The project is a partnership between the National Library, Ministry of Education, Dunedin City Council (including the Dunedin Public Libraries and Dunedin Unesco City of Literature), Te Runanga o Otakou and Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki, and the Methodist Mission Southern.

Dunedin City Council arts and culture relationship manager Kirsten Glengarry said 40 books were delivered to Rainbow Preschool, in King Edward St, yesterday.

They were among about 10,000 that would be delivered to primary schools, early learning centres and community organisations around South Dunedin over the next few weeks.

"We have books in the Pasifika languages, and we’re aware of our new migrants in the city, so we’ve been working hard to locate Arabic books as well."

Finding Arabic children’s books had been difficult but they had managed to acquire some from a distributer in the United States, she said.

"There’s a realisation that, if we want to encourage children to read, they need to be able to read in a range of languages and find their own language, too.

"This is a beginning programme.

"We see it as making a splash and we hope that the community will pick up this notion of reading for pleasure, and all the benefits that come with it, and all the opportunities that come down the road.

"And hopefully they will go to the library and start accessing books."

National librarian Bill McNaught said reading provided an important foundation for digital and critical literacies, which were crucial for participation in today’s complex information landscape.

"Reading for pleasure has significant benefits, such as improving reading, knowledge, empathy, creativity, wellbeing and social outcomes."

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said it was exciting to see the project developed and delivered in the community.

"We have an opportunity to make a real difference in young people’s lives when they read widely and well."

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