Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador

Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador

Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador for children and young people advocates for and champions the importance of reading in the lives of young New Zealanders. The first Reading Ambassador announced in May 2021, is writer Ben Brown

Ben Brown Te Awhi Rito

Ben Brown (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) writes children's books, non-fiction, poetry and short stories for children and adults. Born in Motueka (1962), the father of two has been a tobacco farm labourer, tractor driver and market gardener.

Headshoot of Ben Brown looking at the camera.
Ben Brown (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) Reading Ambassador. Photo by Sophie Taylor-Brown.

Since 1992, he has been a publisher and writer, collaborating with the illustrator, Helen Taylor, in most of his 17 publications. Ben is a regular in the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura's Writers in Schools programme.

Te Awhi Rito website

Visit the Te Awhi Rito website to find out more about the role, read Ben's blog posts and to find out about Te Awhi Rito news and events.

Read more about Ben on the Te Awhi Rito blog

Photos from welcome to Ben Brown

About the Te Awhi Rito role

Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador advocates for and champions the importance of reading in the lives of young New Zealanders, their whānau, and communities. As a national reading role model, they will build visibility and awareness of reading across all sectors in Aotearoa New Zealand, helping to create a nation of readers.

Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador aims to:

  • inspire, empower and mobilise powerful, positive reading experiences for children, young people, whānau, and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • deliver and support reading programmes and events, including those underway in the National Library and with other partnerships and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • work with and make connections between the many organisations involved in reading, literacy, literature, and the wellbeing of young people and their whānau
  • build appreciation of, access to, and growth of stories and literature that reflect Aotearoa New Zealand. This includes helping increase the creation of and access to reading resources in Te Reo Māori and the diverse languages and cultures of Aotearoa
  • connect and work with the network of reading ambassadors and children’s laureates across the globe.

Te Awhi Rito is appointed for a two-year term. They are provided with a stipend and operational expenses are funded separately. The National Library provides ongoing coordination and support, and Te Puna Foundation, the fund-raising body for the National Library, provides funding for the role.

Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador programme and activities

The programme and activities will vary, but are likely to include:

  • school visits and talks
  • media engagements
  • conference presentations and contributions
  • social media and online postings
  • the development of a youth engagement programme
  • representation on stakeholder or government bodies.

About the name Te Awhi Rito

The name Te Awhi Rito comes from the harakeke or flax plant. The ‘Rito’ is the young shoot at the centre of the plant. ‘Awhi Rito’ are the strong, mature leaves that stand straight and tall to surround, protect and nurture the Rito. Outside Te Awhi Rito are the ‘Tupuna’ or older leaves that bend towards the ground. These support the entire harakeke bush and eventually become part of the fertile ground beneath.

The harakeke is sometimes used as a metaphor for generations in a family. Te Awhi Rito are parents, connecting the young people or Rito in the centre of the bush to their grandparents or Tupuna.

Te Awhi Rito is not a direct translation for Reading Ambassador but represents this role in nurturing and inspiring the Rito — the young and new readers. The Tupuna represent the many organisations, authors, teachers, libraries and other advocates for reading in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over time, each Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador will add their mana and mahi to strengthen the whole harakeke or He Pā Rito.

Partner group

The National Library of New Zealand leads the Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador initiative in collaboration with four foundation partners: Te Puna Foundation; Read New Zealand Te Pou Muramura; Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa; and Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki o Aotearoa.

The Partner Group promotes and supports the effective establishment and delivery of the Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador initiative. They will provide ongoing advice and support to the Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador and steer the development of the programme of activities.

Contact us

If you have any questions email us at reading-ambassador@dia.govt.nz