Communities of Readers

Communities of Readers

The Communities of Readers project is an initiative designed to connect more children and young people to reading. This initiative is enabling the National Library to work with a small number of communities to strengthen reading engagement.

What is Communities of Readers?

Communities of Readers (COR) is a National Library initiative that aims to engage children and young people with reading for pleasure and wellbeing. Funded by the Te Puna Foundation and in collaboration with partners, the initiative will work with four to five communities to strengthen focus areas identified through a co-design process.

Research, resources, stories and tools generated during each of the projects will be shared. The learnings will also help shape future work, including that related to the National Library’s ‘Growing a Nation of Readers’ strategy.

COR commenced in mid–2019 and is expected to run for two to three years.

Te Puna Foundation

Purpose of the project

Reading for pleasure has significant benefits such as improving reading, knowledge, empathy, creativity, wellbeing and social outcomes. It provides an important foundation for digital and critical literacies, crucial for participation in today’s complex information landscape.

However, not all children, young people and their communities in New Zealand have the same opportunities to develop a love of reading. There are inequities in access to books, libraries, expertise, support and reading role-models.

“All of the data suggest how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals — whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success — facts that are not especially surprising — but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behaviour surveyed.”

To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, National Endowment for the Arts' report, US, 2007

Reading for pleasure — a door to success

South Dunedin community and partners

The South Dunedin community is working together to increase the number of young readers inspired to read for pleasure and well-being, the project is called ‘Read Share Grow’. The focus is children aged 3 to 7 — a period of transition from early learning environments to primary school. The vision for the project is to strengthen the communities by reading together.

The partners in the project, working with many local community organisations, services and businesses are:

  • distributing books to tamariki in South Dunedin
  • running a targeted public communications campaign about the value of reading for pleasure and wellbeing
  • providing support and professional development for schools and ECEs who are important conduits for the project
  • contributing to local community events and offering programmes and activities for whānau.

The communications campaign has been developed in Dunedin with a strong local theme that acknowledges the area, land, water, and community. Influenced by Pasifika and Māori, the design pays tribute to the founders of the land as well as representing all cultures in South Dunedin.

Partners working with National Library in the South Dunedin project include:

  • Dunedin City Council, including the Dunedin Public Library and UNESCO Dunedin City of Literature
  • Ministry of Education Otago/Southland Regional Directorate
  • Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki
  • Methodist Mission Southern

Read Share Grow — project website
Read Share Grow – Children’s books for South Dunedin — a blog about the project.

Follow Read Share Grow:

West Auckland community

Reading achievement is a priority challenge for the schools in Kāhui Ako o Tiriwa. The five primary schools in the West Auckland Community of Readers are working together to encourage and enable teachers to nurture the joy of reading in their school.

The partners in this project are:

  • Massey Primary
  • Royal Road School
  • West Harbour School
  • Colwill School
  • Lincoln Heights School
  • Ministry of Education Auckland Regional Directorate, and
  • National Library of New Zealand.

A programme of professional development, activities, author visits and access to more books began in mid-2020, supporting teachers to strengthen the culture of reading for pleasure in the schools. This includes:

  • understanding the influence of teachers as reading role models
  • reading aloud to students of all ages
  • developing knowledge of children’s and YA literature
  • learning strategies to engage students with reading, and
  • supporting summer reading initiatives.

Read more about developing a reading culture

Huntly College community

Huntly College is a co-educational decile 1 secondary school on the western banks of the Waikato River with a roll that is over 80% Māori. It has an innovative and broad curriculum and the Principal and school leaders are passionate advocates for reading for pleasure. National Library and Huntly Secondary College are the two partners in this project.

The vision is that Huntly College becomes associated with reading and that by working together we can support staff and student leaders to promote and inspire the students to read for pleasure and wellbeing. As the Principal says, ‘readers are leaders and leaders are readers’.

The project commenced in June 2020 and is delivering professional development, books, visits, experiences and programmes for staff and students.

Canterbury community

The Canterbury Communities of Readers project commenced in late 2020. It is providing books, programmes and reading environments for tamariki and rangatahi in care, or on the edge of care, and their caregivers in the Canterbury region. The partners are National Library and Kingslea School with a hub for the project at the Arahina ki Ōtautahi School in Richmond. The partners are working with government and community support agencies in the region including Oranga Tamariki.

The vision is to weave a whāriki of support to inspire a love of reading among tamariki and rangatahi in care, or on the edge of care.


The School of Education Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is developing the Communities of Readers research report to bring together national and international research with the learnings from the Communities of Readers project. This will be available in mid-2021.

AUT’s Reading Communities website includes downloadable research review briefing papers informed by their research literature review for communities of readers on:

• reading for pleasure
• reading teachers and schools.

AUT’s Reading Communities website

The School of Education AUT is also undertaking the community research in the West Auckland and Huntly College projects. They have invited student researchers from Huntly College to work with them during the Huntly project to better understand reading at the school.

Point and Associates are leading the research component for the South Dunedin and the Canterbury projects, contributing insights and learnings to the Community of Readers research report.

Resources for creating Communities of Readers

Creating a reading community ensures young people have the support, encouragement, reading resources and inspiration to read for pleasure. This is one of the most powerful ways of improving reading, vocabulary, knowledge of self, others and the world, educational outcomes and wellbeing.