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March 7, 2011 | by  | in Arts Books | [ssba]

Books – This March is… New Zealand Book Month

Salient talks to project manager Nikki Crowther about what she’s got planned for the campaign.

Book month has turned into quite the cultural tour de force. Do you think New Zealanders are becoming more engaged with the month, or has NZBM had to be more proactive as a response to declining readership?

This year we decided to expand our scope and “think big”.
Firstly, we believe that New Zealand Book Month is all about celebrating books and reading, rather than prescribing exactly what it is that folk should be reading. So we extended the promotion to include all books, rather than just New Zealand-published books.
Secondly, whilst we have terrific support—both historically and ongoing—from already passionate and committed book readers, we wanted to reach out to a wider audience of “lapsed” or infrequent readers, and parents of school-age children in particular, to encourage, energise and prompt them to re-engage with books.

Is that what inspired the “books change lives” theme this year?

I’ve always believed in the positive impact that books can have on us. But our theme for this year started to crystallise when I read a study published in January last year by Elsevier entitled Family scholarly culture and educational success. This study, across 27 countries, proved that children who grow up in homes where there are books get on average 3 more years’ schooling than children from bookless homes—independent of their parents’ education, occupation and class. This data held equally in rich nations and poor, and in the past and in the present. I think this study just goes to show the power that owning and engaging with books can have in shaping our lives—as individuals, families, and ultimately as a country.

Which Wellington events would you most recommend?

There are lots to suit all tastes and audiences, right across the month. My personal favourites are:
Joy Cowley at Te Papa on 3 March. She is just such a brilliant storyteller, and has introduced so many children to the joys of reading.
Kate de Goldi at the Little Theatre, Lower Hutt at 7pm on 8 March—because we should absolutely celebrate the brilliant authors who guide and enthuse children through the transition to adult reading.
For a glass of Prosecco and a feast of fiction, Sarah-Kate Lynch is at Café L’Affaire at 6pm on 14 March.
And, because it is just such a beautiful treat of a book, I am inspired by Art at Te Papa at Te Papa on 24 March, which looks into the stories behind the artworks featured in the book.

NZBM has done great things as an advocate for reading (including this year’s impressive initiative of issuing 4 million $5 reading vouchers across NZ) but how has NZBM promoted NZ authors and how do you think we can best support local writers?

This year, thanks to generous sponsorship from Creative New Zealand, we have been able to support authors with getting out and about to events right across the country—so that they can meet their readers, and hopefully engage a whole new audience for their work. There are over 250 events taking place during March, which include a diverse range of some of New Zealand’s finest and most successful writers. The best way to support local writers is to turn up to hear what they have to say during New Zealand Book Month, and to read, borrow and buy their books—this March for sure, but all year round.

Do you have any advice for budding student writers?

I can’t remember who said it, but I strongly agree that to be a good writer you need to read, read, and then read some more…
Our theme this issue is teaching. What’s the most important thing that working in the bookselling and publishing industry has taught you?
That the most effective way to support a book is to talk about it—with friends, family, colleagues… Having someone that you know, or a reviewer that you like, recommend a book helps enormously, as a “good book” is one that someone enjoys for themselves and does not necessarily feature on a prescribed list.


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