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Making mātauranga Māori accessible to tamariki

12 September 2023

Tuahiwi pūrākau (stories) are soon to be published as children's picture books in a collaboration between Tuahiwi School, Tuahiwi Marae and Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) researchers.


From left: Dr Amy Scott, senior lecturer Jen Smith and Dr Kay-Lee Jones


Since 2021, a research team that includes Education Senior Lecturer Dr Amy Scott from the UC Child Well-being Institute, has been working on turning five Tuahiwi-based stories into children’s picture books with illustrations by a whānau local Māori artists: Christine Harvey, Tōmairangi Taiepa and Akeake Taiepa.

The team met with Tuahiwi whānau, including local kaumātua (elder), to collect over 20 hours of kōrero (conversation). Their stories share experiences of kapa haka, mahinga kai (food gathering), mahi īnanga (whitebaiting), history of the Kaiapoi Pā, and intergenerational experiences of Tuahiwi Marae. 

Dr Scott’s work focuses on ways to facilitate literary success for all tamariki.

“I love literacy and reading because of the opportunities it gives children to open them up to the world. We’ve looked at how we can use our traditional Western science view of literacy acquisition and weave it together with mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge),” she says.

“We wanted to capture this mātauranga and put it in a way that’s accessible for young children. It’s also a springboard for further conversations,” Dr Scott says.

Using story themes taken from the kōrero (conversation), Ngāi Tahu Māori language expert Lynne Harata Te Aika has written the stories and created both a te reo Māori and a bilingual English/te reo Māori version.

The pukapuka (books) will be gifted to both the school and the Tuahiwi community to use in classrooms and in whānau homes.

Dr Scott explains Ngāi Tūāhuriri retains the “data sovereignty”, and the content of the books is their knowledge.

The books are part of a broader research project funded by the Teacher-led Research Innovation Fund. The project is led by UC senior lecturer Jen Smith (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Te Roroa) and involves UC Dr Kay-Lee Jones (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Te Whānau a Kai), Dr Amy Scott, Ngāi Tūāhuriri kaitiaki Liz Kererū, Tuahiwi School and Tuahiwi Marae.

“In collaboration with Ngāi Tūāhuriri, we will research the impact of these stories on te reo Māori vocabulary learning of 5 – 8-year-olds at Tuahiwi School. We’ll also gain insights from teachers and whānau on the impact of having access to place-based stories in their homes and classrooms. Tuahiwi will decide what happens with the books and stories after that.” 

The project is already showing the value of having stories immortalised and working in collaboration,

“We’re creating a blueprint for other marae and iwi – how they might go through the process of capturing their own stories as children’s books. There are lots of pūrākau (stories) sitting in people’s minds.  We are suggesting a way to be able to bring them to life on the page,” Dr Scott says.

“Throughout our work with Tuahiwi, tamariki (children) have been at the core of everything we do. It will be interesting to see the results of research about how these books support the children’s grasp of te reo Māori. It also has a wider impact on the community, by listening to the kaumātua (elder) and bringing people together to hear and keep these stories alive,” she says.

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