They were angels in Hell, those children from Paihia School, who yesterday turned words into pizza then ate the results.

They had to read at least seven books to meet the Reading Challenge, the Hell Pizza marketing campaign to encourage reading in children.

In previous years, the pizza has gone to the children. This year, Hell Pizza is bringing kids from far-flung parts of the North to Whangarei where they make their own.

The 35 children from Paihia School's Year 3 Nga Motu class had met their challenge, mainly through the works of Roald Dahl.

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Molly Kirwan, 8, and Henry Loosely, 7, lead Paihia School's Nga Motu class to Whangarei and pizza. Photo / Supplied
Molly Kirwan, 8, and Henry Loosely, 7, lead Paihia School's Nga Motu class to Whangarei and pizza. Photo / Supplied

They started with The Twits. "It was so funny we decided to do a focus on Roald Dahl," says Denise Hadwin, who co-teaches the class with fellow teacher Michelle Williams.

George's Marvellous Medicine followed, then Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Henry Loosely, 7, still had half the book to go. Molly Kirwan, 8, was almost out the other side.

Brilliant, they reckoned, as was the pizza.

Molly Kirwan read seven books and turned the words to pizza. Photo / John Stone
Molly Kirwan read seven books and turned the words to pizza. Photo / John Stone

They all left Paihia by bus shortly after school started and descended on the Hell Pizza store in Regent.

Once inside the store, the children formed an orderly production line. Hands were washed, latex gloves shuffled on to small hands, then careful assessment of toppings on offer.

Co-owner Adrienne Chubb made a keen assessment of her new chefs' needs - vegetable toppings were available if wanted but the kids barely looked past ham, pineapple, pepperoni and cheese.

Henry was after pepperoni; Molly wanted Hawaiian. "That's ham and pineapple," she explained.

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Henry Loosely, 7, sets off to eat his pizza. Photo / John Stone
Henry Loosely, 7, sets off to eat his pizza. Photo / John Stone

Having topped their pizza, seven minutes of immaculate patience were rewarded with what was, apparently, the best pizza ever. If so, none lasted long enough to be independently judged.

The Reading Challenge has young readers write the names of books they have read on to "slices" of a pizza picture. When seven books are read, and signed off by their school or local librarian, they can take the completed wheel to a store to swap for pizza.

Hadwin said the prospect of the Whangarei trip added impetus to the young readers.

"There was a mad scramble - since they found out about the trip - to finish the wheel," said Hadwin.

Other classes from Kaitaia's Pukepoto School and Taipa Area School will soon make their own journey. In total, 130 children from far-flung schools will visit.

"We get three or four (completed wheels) a day," says Chubb, who first worked at the store age 17 and now co-owns it 13 years later. "The range kids are reading at is amazing."

The Reading Challenge is in its sixth year and this year has distributed 300,000 pizza wheels through almost 700 schools and 223 public libraries.

As a marketing campaign, the Reading Campaign broadens and softens Hell Pizza's publicity efforts beyond headline-grabbing stunts of its earlier years. Early billboard campaigns and other promotional drives have caused complaints and outrage.