Why should we #ReadNZ?

The #ReadNZ campaign celebrates books from Aotearoa. It’s a movement to get us noticing the books being written and published here, to pull them off the library shelves and get reading.

The campaign started in May last year as a project led by the New Zealand Book Council, with input from other groups in the sector, such as booksellers, literary festivals, publishers and libraries.

Part of the campaign has happened on social media. Using the hashtag #ReadNZ, we’ve linked to a range of articles, reviews and interviews for and about New Zealand books. We’ve also given away nearly 100 New Zealand books through weekly competitions. Some have been picture books, some aimed at YA readers, and others are novels, poetry, or non-fiction. One thing’s for certain: people like free books! If you follow us on social media, you can enter to win, too.

On the Book Council website, we’ve hosted our own author interviews, asking questions like: “Which New Zealand books have been meaningful in your life?”; “Which books remind you of home?”; “Is there anything that sets New Zealand poetry apart, do you think?” It’s always interesting to find out what local writers think.

In July we asked poet Tayi Tibble what she found distinctive about New Zealand writing, and she said: “As a teenager, I felt hyper aware of how isolated we are. Mainly because I was trying to order clothes online and shipping is so expensive. I used to feel like I could really tell that we were at the bottom of the world, and this put me in a semi constant state of creative anxiety. But one of the benefits about isolation is that it forces you into your imagination and encourages you to use you ingenuity… and get a little weird. I actually think it’s our weird Kiwi sense of humour that sets New Zealand poetry apart.”

As for books from Aotearoa that had made a lasting impression on her, Tayi named Festival of Miracles by Alice Tawhai as an important read for her teenage self: “She was the first writer to convince me that localised, New Zealand stories were interesting and urgent to write about. It was also the first time that I thought New Zealand literature was cool.”

We recently talked to newly-graduated Whitireia publishing student Mishalee Wickremesekera about her investigation into what young Kiwis think about New Zealand books. As part of her Diploma of Publishing, Mishalee embarked on a research project into this very topic. One part of her work involved talking to intermediate-aged students in Wellington about their attitudes toward local literature.

“Sherryl Jordan, Brian Falkner, Jane Higgins: all authors of some of my favourite books growing up. Interestingly, I had no idea they were New Zealanders until after I had read their work. It got me thinking about the way New Zealand YA is marketed to young New Zealanders. Unless you’re Margaret Mahy, Fleur Beale or Maurice Gee it’s not always obvious books have been written here,” she says.

Mishalee’s findings were interesting: the students she talked to did actually read New Zealand books, often through school, but they were not always aware of, or particularly bothered by, the local connection.

She concluded that we could do much more to connect local books with young New Zealanders. To read more about her work, click here.

The Hooked on NZ Books writers and readers have an important role to play in this campaign, too. What do you think about books published here in Aotearoa New Zealand? Do you consider where a book is set or written before you choose to read it?

If you would like to get involved with the #ReadNZ campaign, please follow and use the hashtag on social media. Write us an email and let us know what you think! And keep up your excellent work reading and critically reviewing New Zealand books. We need you.

NZ Book Council, communications@bookcouncil.org.nz

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