Auckland Airport Plays Santa to Young Writers

With play stations and computers hogging children's playtime, the importance of reading and the social and academic benefits that come with it are often forgotten.

The New Zealand Book Council has been working with 500 schools over 40 years to promote reading by having writers of all genres go into schools.

The latest Otahuhu Writers in Schools initiative has resulted in a writer being assigned to one of five schools in Otahuhu and visit over several terms to help children write their own stories and have them published in a book created by the school.

Council chief executive Catriona Ferguson said the children got a real buzz out of working with a real-life author and seeing their work in print.

Vasanti Unka visited Otahuhu Primary School, Selina Tusitala Marsh went to St Joseph's Otahuhu, Tony Baloney Williams to Fairburn School, Melinda Szymanik to Panama Road School and Paula Morris worked with Otahuhu Intermediate.

Auckland Airport's $10,000 donation means the programme can continue for a third year.

"Funding is always an issue because it' s a more expensive project than some of the school's projects that we run so getting this grant means we can confidently go ahead next year which is fantastic," said Ferguson.

She said all the evidence pointed to just how important reading is for young people, but it was often forgotten.

"There's the obvious benefits that you need to be able to read to function in society," Ferguson said. But children who read also had better relationships with their parents, they enjoyed earlier academic success and it helped them to deal with social structure, she said.

"I think that sometimes with all the distractions of technology we can lose sight a little bit of how important it is and part of our goal is that reading stays a strong part of children's' lives."

Auckland Airport's general manager of people and safety, Anna Cassels-Brown, said Christmas was a busy time of year for the airport and a lot of people so it was great the Book Council was helping people to relax and enjoy a good book, which made it a worthy recipient of the grant.