Some familiar Reading Role Models – who is yours?

Two platoon leaders in the US Army started recommending books to their troops and they found their book lists so successful at getting them reading that they launched a website where the recommendations of the rich and famous could be found. People donated funds so that these books could be supplied to the service personnel in need. A great scheme you can look at here.

Barack Obama is a great reader and his recommendations are publicised widely in the US. Here is a sample of his choices from The Independant newspaper in the U.K. From Harry Potter to Shakespeare no less. In an interview with the New York Times, when asked how reading helped him in his solitary days he said

…. it reintroduced me to the power of words as a way to figure out who you are and what you think, and what you believe, and what’s important, and to sort through and interpret this swirl of events that is happening around you every minute.

Reading can do that. It can also help you read quickly through the mountains of reports and legislation you would need to read as President, or through the mountains of information you need to wade through as a high school or college student. We talked about this with some of our year 7/8s this week.

Significantly though, when a survey was carried out with over 2000 students aged between 7 and 15, they said that the most important reading role models to inspire them to read were their Mum (71%), their Dad (62%), their friends, their teachers and other adults at school. Most chose a role model for their qualities such as being caring, hard working and honest rather than for being famous or rich (or goodlooking, but it didn’t say these qualities have to be mutually exclusive!). When asked how they thought their role model inspires them to read, they said if

  • They recommended books for them to read
  • They explain to them why it’s important to read

At school we look to our teachers and other adults to be great reading role models for our students.  In the library we have a new Cool Wall where some of us are showing that we don’t just tell children to read but love to read ourselves. Many of the books they love can be borrowed from our library. More will be added, but here are a few of our wonderful reading superheroes:

Mr Haddock’s role model was his Mum, who was also a school librarian. He read and loved everything she recommended, even if as a cool teenager he didn’t always admit that his mum’s choices were the best. A lover of fantasy series, he would recommend books by David Eddings (such as the Belgariad series we have in the library), Raymond E. Feist and of course Harry Potter. He also enjoyed Nancy Drew and Hardy Brothers mystery books and CalvinHobbs comic strips. The theatrical Mr Haddock now reads Shakespeare’s plays or re-reads his old favourite series.


Mrs Abrams grew up in a house that was full of books, and both her Mum and Dad read lots of non-fiction books about the areas they were interested in, such as architecture and gardening. Great role models were also her older sister and her friends both at school and since leaving college.

Mrs Abrams loves the kinds of books she now reads to the students in her classes, such as Wonder, Holes, Hoot and Hatchet, all books we have in the library. She enjoyed Enid Blyton series and Roald Dahl books when she was younger. She likes books with some adventure and mystery in them, and just very good interesting stories such as All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr (on Obama’s top 10 too) and My Family and other animals by Gerald Durrell.


Mr Daily immediately recalled enjoying Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights and the Dark Materials trilogy, an exciting and at times dark series about a girl who finds out that her mother is part of a scheme to remove “dust” from the atmosphere by separating children from their daemons, their soul companions. This series was completed in 2000, and we are excited to know that Pullman is soon to release a fourth book which acts as both a prequel and sequel to the original series. Mr Daily also admits to enjoying the Phoebe and her Unicorn books!


Mr Karl‘s reading role model was his Mum. He really enjoyed reading magic and fantasy books like Lord of the Rings. Mr Karl can also recommend the Skulduggery Pleasant series!

Hazel doesn’t recall anyone in particular being a reading role model but once she discovered the joy of reading really made up for lost time!  Hazel loves fantasy series, by authors Anne McCaffrey and Raymond E Feist, like some of those we have at school – Fablehaven, Belgariad, and Lord of the Rings, and sci-fi fiction by author Robert Heinlein. Terry Pratchett writes funny fantasy fiction about all kinds of magical things and we have some of his books in the library.

Finally, Mrs Bamber used to love Enid Blyton books, series like the Magic Faraway Tree and boarding school stories like Malory Towers, and later Judy Blume and Nancy Drew. I think my reading role model was my Dad because he read a lot of books about the war and, without fail, a daily broadsheet and evening newspaper. Nowadays rarely a day goes by that something Harry Potter related is not mentioned in our house! I love to read mystery, historical fiction, and classic love stories.

Come and look at our reading superhero wall in the library and borrow one of these recommendations. We guarantee you will enjoy them!



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Sky High – Jean Batten’s incredible flying adventures

I recently attended the book launch of this quality new non-fiction book from David Hill, beautifully illustrated by local artist Phoebe Morris.

David wanted to tell the story of Jean’s single-minded determination and bravery because many of the other books written about her focused on other aspects of Jean’s life. Jean broke many records, including being the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, and back again, and from Australia to New Zealand. She often broke the records that had been set by men and then broke her own records. She was celebrated both in New Zealand and across the world. Here is an extract from the New Zealand Herald of October 12th 1936 when she had just re-broken one of her records, reducing her own time down from 14 days to just under 6.

“A large crowd greeted Miss Batten when she made a spectacular landing at Darwin. She was delighted with her success and with the warmth of her reception, but was feeling tired, having had only seven hours’ sleep in five days”


You can find newspaper articles about anything that has been reported in New Zealand over the last century by searching Papers Past, another database that the National Library of New Zealand gives us access to. There are also many historic letters and papers going back to the time of the early settlers. You can try it here. When you have found something, remember to click on the link at the bottom of the extract to view the whole article.

The artist Phoebe Morris talked at the launch about some of the dramatic scenes she had captured in the book. Here’s one of my favourites:

Phoebe again wanted to focus more on the achievement and bravery of Miss Batten and capture the drama of the moments rather than focus on her looks, for example not emphasising beautiful long eyelashes in her close up images.

Jean was named Hine-o-te-Rangi, Daughter of the Skies by the Maori people. Phoebe Morris was inspired for one of her illustrations by a photograph showing Jean with Arawa Chief Mita Taupopoki.

Photograph reproduced with permission from Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.

Phoebe Morris was born in Wellington, attended Brooklyn School, Wellington Girls’ College and Victoria University and now has a successful studio in the heart of the city.

We have one of David Hill and Phoebe Morris’s other collaborations in the library, Speed King, about the life of Bert Munro, and we will soon have First to the Top about Edmund Hillary. Come and borrow them.



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Dragon Defenders author James Russell visits Seatoun

James Russell is the author of the Dragon Hunters trilogy of picture books and the first of a series of chapter books, The Dragon Defenders. We loved having James come into school and talk to the students about his books and how he came to be a writer.

The Dragon Hunters are Flynn and Paddy, brothers growing up on a faraway island with their parents in a basic but hardy life away from modern conveniences. They discover a colony of dragons and adopt one of them, naming him Elton and so begins this exciting adventure into the world of dragons. In the chapter book they are also brought into the modern world, often with amusing consequences as they encounter technology for the first time, but fraught with danger as the dragon colony comes under threat.

James’ sons Flynn and Paddy enjoyed their dad telling them stories about dragons and so he decided to turn his stories into books. James was inspired to be a writer after discovering the excitement of a great book reading The Power of One, and he in turn creates gripping storylines in order to build the excitement as you journey through each book. We are delighted that he is almost ready to publish the second book in this series and you can bet we will be among the first to have some copies in our library! Perhaps we will also find out yet another terrible sandwich combination not to try out! We do know however that he has introduced a strong female character, Briar and we can’t wait to find out how she gets involved.

The other unique quality of James’s books is the augmented reality that he has built into his illustrations. By downloading a free app and viewing the book through a tablet camera you can see the world of Flynn and Paddy really come to life, literally! Take a look at still images taken here in the library! One News did a feature on his books which you can see here. You can also find out more about AR at James’ website here.

James read some his books to the students and we felt very privileged to have him visit our school. Room 12 have already bagged the first copy of the chapter book to read in class but we have a full set of his books in the library ready to go. The Dragon Defenders is already the best selling book by a New Zealand author and I am sure all of his books will be enjoyed for years to come. Thank you James for such an awesome visit!




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Going on a Lion Hunt

Last week in the library we had some fun with our green screen. Most of us have read ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’, but this time we went on a lion hunt and used the green screen to make the story come alive!

Room 6 swish-swashed through the long grass, squelched through the swamp, splash-splashed through the lake and tiptoed through the cave.

Green screens seem to work by magic! Here is a website which talks about how green screens are used in television and film and tries to explain how they work. We use an app called Do Ink Green Screen to create our videos and pictures.

In Junior Enrichment we also had fun with the green screen. Here are a few photos.


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My favourite books ever for new readers

The beautiful characters of Houndsley with his “soft as a rose petal” voice and his best friend Catina face a few challenges in this lovely series of books now in the library. They show extreme tolerance, courage, friendship and kindness – Houndsley faces real disappointment when he doesn’t do as well as he expected in a cooking competition, Catina finally learns to swim, they both overcome sadness at not knowing when their birthdays are and a snow storm teaches them the gift of the quiet time.

“Yes,” Catina said. “First I will find something I like to do. Then I will do it and do it and do it until I am very good at it. And then I might be famous.”

“I know something you are good at already,” said Houndsley, “although you will never be famous for it.”


“Being my friend.”



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Mr Eel needs your help!

This is our longfin eel or tuna and he is happiest living in the shadows of our lovely clear waters in New Zealand. What happens if our rivers are no longer clear because so much silt runs into them from the hills around them? Or what happens if river banks are slowly being trampled and there is no longer any shadow left for Mr Eel?

This is Oliver Vetter and he talked to our Year 5/6 team last week about something he is very passionate about – water! In his previous job as an oceanographer he has seen the damage that the interruption to the water cycle and the impact of humans has caused to not just New Zealand’s waterways but all over the world. Oliver represents an organisation called Sustainable  Coastlines and they are helping New Zealanders make our rivers and streams be beautiful again. Take a look at their website below.

Photo taken during the Travis Wetland Tree Planting. Thanks Sustainable Coastlines for letting us use this image.

Oliver gave us some friendly tips on how we could make a difference.

Plant some native trees – either at home or as part of a project. Miramar ecological restoration has some advice on finding the right plants for our environment. Native trees grow well, look good, give out lots of good oxygen and can even reverse some of the bad effects of our habitation – like the cabbage tree which actually sucks bad metals out from the ground to free up nice soil space for our lovely new trees.

Buy certified biogro – these are products that have been made with ingredients which have not had pesticides or herbicides sprayed on them and have therefore had little or no negative impact on our waterways. Look for this symbol:

Walk, scooter or bike to school – any reduction in the number of cars on the road is positive.

Oliver’s final and easiest 3 suggestions for anyone wanting to do their bit:

  1. Don’t ever use or buy the plastics that are forever being found in our stormwater drains  (heading for the sea) – plastic straws, plastic bags, bottles of shop-bought water.
  2. Pick up rubbish especially near the beach to stop it getting into the stomachs of poor sea creatures.
  3. Tell 3 people who don’t know about any of this – the more people that know, the bigger impact these little things can have.
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Celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter

On 26th June 1997, the first 500 copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were released into the world. Since then, more than 450 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold, translated into 79 languages.  Harry Potter and the many amazing characters that appear alongside are beloved by their fans young and old.

Did you know there are huge Fandoms for Harry Potter – great online places for fans to indulge themselves, find out more about the characters, be sorted into a house, try out new spells or read about the latest Wizarding news. Try one of them here:

Harry Potter books are a great choice for children to read for many reasons:

  • they are filled with a  rich word choice to build vocabulary
  • the writing builds an exciting plot so well that you just want to keep reading and reading
  • the stories offer superb life lessons, like accepting differences, acknowledging courage and loyalty, the power of friendships, people aren’t perfect
  • there are some fantastic female role models, like Hermione, Luna, Mrs Weasley
  • you enter a fantastical, magical world of adventure which ignites imagination

Enjoy Harry Potter, always.


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Actively saving our native species

This is Sacha Walters and as well as being Super Mum to our very own Elinor in Room 17, she is also a Senior Policy Advisor for the Department of Conservation, advising our government in how best to protect New Zealand’s natural resources and wildlife. Sacha came in today to talk to the Year 5/6 team because they have been studying this exact topic.

Sacha gave us some interesting background information about her role and how the Department of Conservation is looking after the whole country with quite limited resources. In terms of what we can do ourselves, here are some suggestions that we heard today:

  • Recycling – ensure we dispose of all of our waste in the right way. Some chemicals and paints that end up in our waterways can cause dreadful harm, so we should find out the right place for these to go. They don’t even go in the red bin. Try the Wellington City Council website for information.
  • Packaging choices – when you are at the supermarket, consider how much packaging is wrapped around the food that you are buying and if possible, choose the no or less packaging variety.
  • Community projects – get involved on a local level – in Seatoun we can make sure no waste ends up in the oceans and protect our local native species like the Little Blue Penguins. Seatoun School students provided a post for the KCC blog in their Take the Lead Challenge – read about it here.

    Here is also a link to the Miramar Ecological Restoration organization which can give some good advice. Take part in nationwide events – like the Garden Bird Survey taking place this month.
  • Watch our own pets – dogs and cats can cause havoc if we let them run loose at night time. Even a pet frog or fish could spread new diseases if let loose into our waterways.
  • Join Kiwi Conservation Club – this is the children’s arm of Forest and Bird, an environmental organisation whose 80,000 members provide the leg work to many projects such as monitoring, planting, weeding and general hard work. KCC itself holds activity meetings once a month where children learn about different aspects of conservation and this might include counting macro-invertebrates in our local waterways, counting Katipo Spiders, checking Possum Traps or simply identifying native ferns, trees, and birds. For only $24 per year you also receive a great magazine every 3 months called Wild Things. Check out how to become a member here.
  • Here is a great book we have just bought for the library which tells us about the pests in New Zealand that we can help to get rid of. We have quite a few books about native species and protecting them in the school library. You can search the library catalogue using the link at the top right of this blog.
  • Finally here are some great images, articles, video links and more resources on this topic compiled by the National Library
    Conservation Day poster

    Conservation Day poster, By Don Binney,New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga, Content partner: Ministry for Culture and Heritage

    For all of these links and more information, check out our Enviro Links Livebinder under Research Help – look for this lovely picture and click on it:

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Books that celebrate how unique and special we all are

We have shared a couple of books with our junior classes over the last week which have promoted discussions about empathy, difference, kindness and how unique and amazing we all are.

We’re all Wonders by RJ Palacio is the picture book version of one of our favourites Wonder, and in this book for younger readers we find out from Auggie how he feels to be seen as so different to everybody when he is actually just an ordinary boy.

“I know I can’t change the way I look but maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see”.

Manukura the white kiwi by Joy Cowley is a brand new book we received this week in our free pack from the publishers Penguin. This tells the true story of a one of a kind white Kiwi born in the Pukaha sanctuary in the Wairarapa. You can find out about this by clicking here. Manukura is considered a taonga  (a blessing) by local iwi and her name means ‘of chiefly status’.

Here are a few books from our library which acknowledge difference. Can you think of any more?

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Power Reading at Book Night

There was certainly some power reading going on at Seatoun School last night when nearly 40 families squeezed into the library and read together for Book Night. Our great student helpers kept the milo flowing and overall our school group of readers was the biggest community group in New Zealand getting together to read.

If you click here you can go to the Book Night website and have a look at the map of New Zealand to see where people were joining in. You might need to zoom in on Wellington to find the individual photos of our school readers.

Some of our photos are here:

Thank you to all of the parents who took the time out of their evenings to support the fantastic reading culture we have at our school.


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