Hutt at Heart

Celebrating reading stars at Naenae Primary School

Hutt City Council Mayor Campbell Barry and Chief Executive Jo Miller visited Naenae Primary School last week to celebrate the relaunch of the Reading Stars programme, ahead of International Literacy Day on Tuesday 8 September.

Reading Stars, formerly known as Reading for Life, is organised by Hutt City Libraries and pairs students with volunteer ‘Reading Buddies’, to share books, games and exercises once a week and give the children’s reading skills a boost.

The programme has been running at Naenae Primary School for 13 years. Children usually spend 15 weeks throughout the school year with their buddy, with the aim to build both confidence and a love of books, empowering them for independent reading and lifelong learning.

Hutt City Council Mayor Campbell Barry and Chief Executive Jo Miller both joined reading pairs at the relaunch.

Mayor Barry says that we all need a bit of support from time to time to help us be more confident picking up a new skill.

“These kids don’t have reading difficulties. They may just need a confidence boost, or an adult role model to help them get to the next literacy stage.”

“Reading Stars can make a world of difference in these kids’ lives and it’s great to see Council supporting this kaupapa.”

The purpose of the Reading Stars programme is to support literacy development and foster the love of reading.

“It has been wonderful to sit with the children and share their enjoyment of reading,” said Jo. “I’ve even recognised a couple of classic books from my childhood!”

“We’re so proud of the Reading Stars programme, and the difference it makes to children and their whānau.

“Reading opens so many doors for people of any age – it really is the key to life. Our volunteers are doing a wonderful job helping our young people access the joys and benefits of reading.”

These role models are the Reading Buddies – volunteers from Hutt City Council staff, reflecting Council’s commitment to literacy. Reading Stars is popular amongst the students. Each year, students eagerly ask if they can participate.

Students new to the school are often invited to participate to make them feel welcomed and involved.

“The programme is incredibly successful,” says Lillian Pak, Programme Development Manager at Hutt City Libraries.

“The literacy level improves for every student who participates, and as research shows, this will have a huge impact on all aspects of their lives: education, employment, and health. The Reading Buddies also find the programme very rewarding. They love being able to give back to the city and to engage with our community in this way. Together they make a great team.

“A particularly revealing moment came at the end of the last school year, during a celebration for the students and their Reading Buddies at Naenae Library. After the formal presentation, the students almost completely ignored the cake and other treats set out for them, as they were too absorbed in reading books with their Reading Buddies!”

NZ Actor Julian Dennison, who starred in Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Paper Planes, is a former Reading Stars student who appreciates what the programme reinforced for him. He says, “reading is a way I can learn about myself, people and the world. It builds me as a person.”

The students and staff at Naenae Primary School are very appreciative of the great work the volunteers from Hutt City Council give to the Reading Stars programme. Principal Murray Bootten explains that “during the 13 years the programme has operated, many children have had the opportunity to participate and work alongside a buddy.  This increases their confidence and skills in reading which is transferred into other curriculum areas in the classroom.  The Reading Stars programme is a fantastic partnership between business and school.  We thank the Hutt City Council for their ongoing support with this valuable and worthy programme.”

Hutt City Libraries is looking to expand the benefits of this programme out to other locations and schools throughout the city. Watch this space for further developments.

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