One of the first things visitors to Tawhero School in Whanganui see is a big poster of a delighted little girl being read to.

The child in the photo is Mercedes Brooks, now a Year 10 high school student and the reader is Sue Lance, still loving her work as a volunteer reader at the school after 20 years.

"I still love coming here to read with the children every week," she says.

"It is extremely rewarding and I have lots of nice chats while I'm here."

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Lance's long-time friends, Gaynor Mullholland and Julie Dickson, surprised her with bouquets to mark her 20 years of volunteering at the school.

"We wanted to mark the occasion and contacted principal Chris Dibben to arrange it without her knowing about it," said Mullholland. "We thought she deserved a bouquet or two."

Lance says one of the joys of working at the school for 20 years is bumping into former pupils who are now grown up.

"They remember stories they read with me and they will say ' I see you still wear your pink lippy'.

"I get so much pleasure from that and from the children I'm reading to now."

Dibben said children had always responded well to Lance and she was already a regular volunteer when he became principal 19 years ago.

"The poster out front says it all really.

"Sue's ability to relate to the kids makes her such a valued supporter and we really appreciate her."

Lance plans to continue her weekly visits and wearing her trademark lipstick.

"Building happy one-on-one relationships with children and having fun is what keeps me coming back."