Books Alive expands to a third regional centre thanks to Mātātuhi Foundation funding

Books alive

Books Alive – the programme of large-scale events that bring hundreds of kids at a time in touch with finalist authors in the annual New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (NZCYA) – will expand to a third regional centre in 2024, thanks to funding from literature sector supporter, the Mātātuhi Foundation.  

Organisers of the awards and the associated Books Alive events, the New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa, successfully applied for one of the Foundation’s major project grants with a proposal to add Invercargill to the existing popular one-day events in Wellington and Christchurch, and ideally a fourth location in 2025. The additional funding will also support bus transport to bring school children from outlying areas to the city, and will enable the Trust to print its 20-page NZCYA activity booklet – previously only available in e-format – to distribute to all tamariki attending the events in all three centres.

Mātātuhi Foundation Chair Anne Blackburn said the Books Alive application resonated because of its ambitious scale, its carefully conceived strategy to partner with local organisations and experts in each region, and its potential to introduce to tamariki the idea that books, writers and reading are exciting and important. 

“Instilling a love for reading amongst tamariki is so important because it lays the foundation for academic success, fosters imagination, empathy, and critical thinking, and cultivates a lifelong love for learning.  Achieving this goal, however, has never been more challenging,” she says. “We believe the immersive format used by Books Alive is a breakthrough model, and we are excited to be supporting the expansion of this experience to more regional centres around New Zealand.”

The Books Alive day in Invercargill, scheduled for Wednesday 7 August, will be project managed by award-winning children’s author, educationist and former NZCYA awards convenor of judges Pauline Vaeluaga Smith, in collaboration with Invercargill City Libraries. It will include a range of activities and sessions with several of the writers and illustrators shortlisted in the 2024 awards.

The Trust will also again partner with the talented programming team at WORD Christchurch to present stimulating panel sessions with finalist authors, attended by more than 500 children in Ōtautahi on Friday 9 August.

And on the day of the NZCYA awards ceremony, Wednesday 14 August, the National Library Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa in Wellington will once again be overrun by hundreds of tamariki attending a wide range of workshops and sessions programmed by the Wellington City Libraries team.

Nicola Legat, chair of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, says Books Alive is already an eagerly anticipated programme of exciting events in large venues that brings together the NZCYA finalists and many hundreds of children in the immediate lead up to the annual awards ceremony. “Programmed by literature experts, and designed to be immersive and engaging, the events drive a sense of energy, belonging and relevance around books and reading for our tamariki and rangatahi.”

“Now with the help of the Mātātuhi Foundation funding, we’re delighted to take Books Alive to Invercargill, and hopefully from there to further regional centres in future years, as we build a sustainable model for the programme,” she says. “Books Alive has the potential to develop further into something really memorable and significant for both children and authors. It also has the potential to take place right around New Zealand so that a wide range of children have access to it. We can’t wait to scale it up and release its full firepower.”

More details on the programmes in all three centres and an invitation to schools in and around Invercargill, Christchurch and Wellington to register their interest in attending Books Alive events in 2024, will be sent out in May. Finalists in the 2024 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults will be announced on 6 June.