A visiting British reading advocate says reading can help fight poverty.

Miranda McKearney, who co-founded the UK based charity The Reading Agency, is in Auckland and Wellington this week to speak about the importance of literacy.

Mrs McKearney says it's possible to read one's way out of poverty, particularly by making use of the free services offered by local libraries.

British reading activist Miranda McKearney.
British reading activist Miranda McKearney.

"You only need to look at the number of authors who say themselves that reading opened their eyes to a world of possibilities and inspired them to write. Author Jeanette Winterson [who visits next month for the Auckland Writers Festival] is a prime example. She speaks about getting an education in the public library which, because it's free, is an educational world anyone can access."


Mrs McKearney says a South Auckland initiative with five low decile schools and a local library is the type of programme the world needs.

The Otahuhu Writers in Schools Project involved writers Lino Nelisi, Paula Green, Paula Morris, Vasanti Unka and Grace Taylor working with school pupils to develop their writing skills.

Mrs McKearney co-founded The Reading Agency in 2002, which started a range of schemes including a summer reading challenge for children.

She is now working with a small start-up called EmpathyLab, which, using neuroscience research, hopes to build empathy through the creative power of words.

Mrs McKearney speaks with local writer Kate De Goldi in Auckland tomorrow about the Reading Agency and EmpathyLab, their programmes, research and advocacy and opportunities these might raise for New Zealand.