Some favourite bilingual books in te reo Māori and English

International Literacy Day is a United Nation’s initiative celebrated worldwide on Sunday 8 September to improve and celebrate literacy. Literacy is also one of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Along with literacy, the focus in 2019 is multilingualism. This provides an opportunity to celebrate, support, and acknowledge 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. To celebrate, we would like to introduce you to some of our favourite bilingual books in te reo Māori and English.

Te reo Māori and English bilingual books displayed on a table

Some favourites

First up, the marvellous 'Kōrero Mai' ('Speak to Me') series by Jenny Chapman, which are board books aimed at introducing simple te reo words based around everyday life. The extra bonus of this series is that the books also include sign language, so they represent the three official languages of Aotearoa.

Another picture book for young children is 'Ko te Hipi Tekau mā Tahi' ('The Eleventh Sheep'), a classic Kyle Mewburn book translated into te reo. This is a great bilingual bedtime story derived from the classic story of counting sheep to get to sleep.

He 'Tūī kei rō Tīpāta' ('There’s a Tui in our Teapot') by Dawn McMillan is a bilingual rhyming story which makes a great read-aloud. It tells the humorous tale of various native birds running amok in Nanny’s house. Factual information on sixteen native birds is included in the book.

'The Marae Visit' by Rebecca Beyer is a fantastic resource to introduce primary school children to the Māori tikanga/customs of visiting a marae. The story follows a class visit to a marae, describing the process of a pōwhiri through to learning traditional games.

'Ka Taea Tonu e Koe!' ('Of Course You Can!') by Karen Hinge is a lovely bilingual story about a disabled boy starting at a new school. He grows his confidence through the support and encouragement of his classmates, who repeat the phrase to him 'ka taea tonu e koe!'.

For older children, we have 'Te Rau Aroha: The Kai Truck' by Aunty Bea, which tells the true story of the Māori Battalion’s food truck during World War Two. The action-packed story follows the truck’s journey through various battles. Also included is a map, timeline, and waiata on a CD.

'Te Aihe i Waiata' ('The Singing Dolphin') by Mere Whaanga is a beautiful sophisticated picture book featuring watercolour artwork. The story tells of the relationship between dolphins and tangata whenua. Pre-European Māori life is also depicted in the story, which was inspired by Moko the dolphin.

A great opportunity to learn, understand, and enjoy

We’re so excited to see more bilingual resources being published. These books offer a great opportunity to increase knowledge of both the language and customs of Māori. We found it fun to learn phrases from the stories in te reo, which is super easy when both languages are printed on the same page.

This is a fantastic time to read bilingual te reo books for learning and enjoyment as we continue into Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) 9–15 September.

By Chelsea Heap and Leigh Takirau

Chelsea and Leigh are librarians with Services to Schools' Reading team.

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