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Books for Oceania Project

 | Nov 21, 2011

by Wendy Carss

As the result of a valuable partnership between Scholastic New Zealand and the New Zealand Reading Association (NZRA), $NZ6,895 worth of quality children’s books are now on their way to schools in Samoa. These books were donated during the recent successful NZRA conference “A Literacy Explosion” held in Rotorua, NZ in mid-July. Conference attendees were able to purchase books from the specially set up Scholastic stands to donate to the Samoan project. For every book purchased Scholastic contributed a book of equal value to the cause. Scholastic then packaged up the books and paid the freight costs involved in shipping to Samoa.

OceanaOn arrival in Samoa, distribution will be organized by Dinah Iusitini, Primary Inclusive Education advisor for SENESE Inclusive Education Services in Samoa, and a member of the International Development in Oceania committee (IDOC). The books will be divided among Samatau Primary School, Senese Secondary School, and Vailuutai Primary School.

Donna Lene, director of SENESE, is thrilled at the infusion of books. “This is going to be fantastic as we have an increasing number of schools that we are working in, and we see the need for quality literature in these schools to assist all children to develop a love for reading. We have some great principals in Savaii now and would love to reward them for their great work with a chance to improve their libraries. Thank you once again for your hard work and efforts to assist Samoa.”

Ongoing Relationship with Scholastic

This year’s donations are part of an ongoing partnership in the Books for Oceania project established in 2007 through collaboration between Rob Southam at Scholastic New Zealand, and Wendy Carss, currently President of NZRA and a member of the IDOC. Rob is also the Auckland Reading Association’s delegate and, as such, was well aware of the distribution problems experienced with some of the earlier attempts to distribute books from conferences throughout the Pacific region. One year, the books failed to arrive at their destination, and other times, unexpected costs associated with Saleapaga Primary School in Samoa with donations made at the World Congress on Reading in Auckland customs duty have made it difficult for recipients to lift the books off the docks once they arrived. Such problems have now been eradicated through utilization of Scholastic’s established freight procedures and contacts. The added bonus of having the donations of conference attendees doubled through Scholastic’s contributions makes this a benefi cial partnership that both contributors are keen to continue.

As Rob Southam explains, “Scholastic is proud to partner with NZRA in this unique and exciting project, bringing books to the children of Oceania, and supporting our Oceania colleagues. The books we send help ensure that Oceania children are exposed to a wide range of the latest books that will engage them and inspire them in their path to lifetime readership.”

The project has now become an expected event at NZRA conferences, and several New Zealand regional reading councils now set aside funds in their annual budget to purchase books at conference. Members of the council hosting the annual conference liaise with Rob and her staff to supervise the book stands and manage transactions.

Selecting Recipients and Qualifying Donated Items

Each year recipients for the books within the Oceania region are identified through consultation with IDOC committee members. Last year donations by those attending the IRA World Congress on Reading in Auckland, New Zealand, enabled $16,424.70 to be sent to schools affected by tsunamis in Aitutaki, Cook Islands, and Samoa. The School of Education library at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education, Veiuto School in Fiji, and schools in Niue have also benefitted in the past.

Both NZRA and Scholastic New Zealand are mindful of the need to adhere to the IRA Resolution on book donations to economically developing nations which states that donations “should be limited to high quality recently published books and other literacy materials that will meet the actual needs of the receiving communities.”

We would like to publicly thank all those who have generously contributed to this project over the past five years and we look forward to your continued support in the future.

Wendy Carss is the President of the New Zealand Reading Association (NZRA) and in the Incoming Chair of the International Reading Association’s International Development in Oceania Committee (IDOC). She is on the Faculty of Education at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.


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