Hawke’s Bay author Mary-anne Scott says a well-stocked library should be the “beating heart” of any learning environment for tamariki.
That beating heart was callously ripped out for many kura in Hawke’s Bay and across Aotearoa in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle. Hundreds of precious books have been lost, and many school libraries have had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
In response to the tragedy, Scott, who lives in Havelock North, has assembled a team of literary avengers to help get books back on shelves.
Teaming up with SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) and Booksellers Aotearoa NZ, Scott has spearheaded the Books Back Better project, an initiative that aims to restock flooded school libraries after Gabrielle.
Fundraised money will provide book tokens so the affected libraries can be filled with books best suited to their readers.
Tokens will be distributed to schools, kohanga reo and kindergartens, and will allow them to buy new books from local booksellers to replace those damaged.
SLANZA president Sasha Eastwood said the organisation had been discussing ideas about how best to support school libraries affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.
“When Mary-anne phoned me with a desire to support affected school libraries, it was a no-brainer that we do all we could to get behind a locally driven project,” she said.
“The tokens will give schools agency to purchase their own books with their community needs in mind. We hope these books will give comfort to akonga/students as school communities work through recovering from the devastating damage of recent events.”
Booksellers Aotearoa was also approached by Mary-anne and was keen to be involved.
“The devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle has had impacts throughout New Zealand’s book-loving community, including several of our members,” said Booksellers Aotearoa CEO Dan Slevin.
“By channelling these generous donations through discounted Booksellers Tokens, our association can make a contribution to those schools, kohanga and kindies that have to rebuild their collections, and also support our members operating in affected communities in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti and Hawkes Bay.”
Booksellers Aotearoa is also supplying the tokens at a 20 per cent discount off face value.
The tokens will come as a welcome gift to many teachers in Hawke’s Bay who have lost school library resources.
Phillippa Watson, a teacher at Omahu School, said many books and journals that were close to the ground in their library had been damaged as a result of the flood.
“They just had to be thrown and dumped, which was really sad,” she said.
“Books are so important for imagination and to bring stories alive.”
Omahu School kids are now learning from Irongate School in Flaxmere in a makeshift classroom where they are able to read and listen to stories.
When Hawke’s Bay Today visited Irongate, Nanny Dee, also a teacher, shared stories of Atua Māori with tamariki as they eagerly listened to every word. Watson said Books Back Better would help make sure this remained a reality.
“It absolutely will [make a difference], you want children to be able to do this.”
Those wanting to donate can do so via the SLANZA website.