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Books about Māori legends created for local children

07 September 2022

Children at Canterbury schools and early childhood centres are being given a series of new books about local Māori legends that have been beautifully illustrated by young artists.


University of Canterbury Well-being Institute Director Professor Gail Gillon says the new books about local Māori legends are designed to develop children’s oral language and literacy skills.

The books are the result of a collaboration between the University of Canterbury Child Well-being Research Institute and Te Taumutu Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, and they are being launched at an event tomorrow.

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Using funding provided by the Ministry of Education, 600 copies of the books will be given to 50 schools, nearly 100 early childhood centres and six libraries in the Taumutu takiwā (area), which centres around Taumutu and Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and extends as far South as the Ashburton river and Hakatere in mid-Canterbury.

The books depict three different pūrākau (myths) that are significant to Taumutu, including; “Ruru and the Giant Pouākai”, “The Creation of Tuna”, and “Taniwha and the Rakaia Gorge”.

Larger size versions for teachers to read are being distributed this month, along with smaller versions, called readers. The readers have simpler text for children to read themselves after they have heard the longer versions.

UC Child Well-being Institute Director Professor Gail Gillon (Ngāi Tahu) says the books are designed to develop oral language and literacy skills while also helping children learn about Māori legends and places that are an important part of their local cultural history.

“We are delighted to have been able to work alongside Te Taumutu Rūnanga to bring these stories to life for young readers.

“The books were developed as part of a research project within the Better Start National Science Challenge in response to the rūnanga’s call for culturally appropriate and place-based stories relevant to local communities. Local rangatahi have created the illustrations and the result is a beautiful series of books,” Professor Gillon says.

UC Amokapua Pākākano Tuarua | Deputy Assistant Vice Chancellor Māori Liz Brown (Ngāi Tahu), who is also Chair of Te Taumutu Rūnanga, says receiving the books will be “hugely beneficial for the well-being and mana” of young people in the Taumutu Rūnanga.

“It shows their culture and background is valued. Kaiako (teachers) will be able to use the books with tamariki in their care and share these amazing stories.”

The books were produced as part of a pilot study for an early childhood literacy approach, in partnership with Kidsfirst Kindergartens, called “Words Can POP”. Led by Professor Gail Gillon and Professor Brigid McNeill from the University of Canterbury, The Words Can POP framework builds three to four-year-old children’s skills in oral language, early phoneme and print awareness, vocabulary and story-telling skills.

The pilot research was successfully implemented in partnership with Kidsfirst in 24 of their kindergartens in the Canterbury region.

Along with the pūrākau, early learning centres in the Taumutu rohe will also be given copies of books from the Words can POP series. This reading series is specifically designed to support early childhood teachers to develop children’s oral language and emerging literacy skills.

  • The University of Canterbury Child Well-being Research Institute is holding an event to launch the books at Lincoln High School tomorrow, Thursday 8 September from 4pm-5.30pm. Representatives from schools and early childhood centres in the Taumutu rohe will be invited to the launch to hear about how these books were created and will be given their copies. A short video about the creation of the books will also be shown.
  • Media are welcome to attend this event and media packs will be available which include a set of the books.
More information
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