Duffy Books in Homes set to expand

Originally established in 1994 to address the problem of ‘booklessness’, the Duffy Books in Homes programme is still spreading the joy of reading to young children.

The Duffy Books in Homes programme is set to expand starting term 3 in 2017, offering decile four schools the opportunity to participate in the successful literacy scheme.

Duffy Books in Homes was established in 1994 by Once Were Warriors author Alan Duff and philanthropist Christine Fernyhough.

The programme was initially the brainchild of the writer who, upon visiting Camberley School in Hastings in the early 1990s, decided to formulate a plan to end the cycle of ‘booklessness’ in some homes and promote literacy as an essential skill for all New Zealanders.

The programme officially launched in 1995 with 80 schools, 16,000 students and 14 sponsors initially partaking.

Since its birth the programme has grown to encompass over 800 schools and early childhood education centres across the country. More than 100,000 children receive 650,000 brand-new books each year thanks to 256 generous partners and supporters.

The cost of the programme is minimal to subscribed schools, with about two thirds of the costs covered by the government and sponsor organisations, including Mainfreight, Scholastic NZ and The Warehouse.

More books to more schools

The programme currently supports decile 1, 2 and 3 schools with three book offers throughout the year, providing children with books where it might otherwise not be possible. However, from mid-July this year, decile 4 schools are eligible and just under 20 decile 4 schools have registered.

Baird’s Mainfreight School in Otara was one of the original Duffy Schools and principal Alan Lyth speaks highly of the programme and its close association with Mainfreight, a major sponsor.

He agrees that schools which draw from low socioeconomic areas really benefit from the programme.

“Often there is little left over for discretionary buying and books are not necessarily the priority,” he says.

“The Duffy Programme has meant that the children have books of their own at home and they share them with the others in the household.”

The programme provides New Zealand children with something of their own to treasure and, as the programme is currently in its 22nd year, children still continue to benefit. Original recipients of Duffy Books are now becoming parents themselves and sharing this journey with their own children.

Alan Lyth fondly recalls talking with a Baird’s Mainfreight family who “stated that one of the highlights from primary was, and still is, the shelf of Duffy books that they still have at home and are now sharing with younger members of their extended family”.

The thrice-yearly book distributions are offered through a Scholastic brochure and students are encouraged by their teachers to choose books of their own. Up to 80 books in both English and te reo Māori feature in every book offer. 

These distributions are also supported by schools during Duffy Role Model assemblies and annual live theatre shows bringing the adventures of Duffy (mascot) to life.

The term 2 book offer is the Government Book Week offer. The Ministry of Education supports and funds every book, chosen by each child from over 500 schools on the programme. The Government Book Week and all our schools including Te Kura Kaupapa o Māori invite their local Members of Parliament to support and present the books each child has chosen to take home and keep.  

In terms 1 and 3, Duffy Role Models appear in our schools and often are our New Zealand personalities and/or are former recipients of Duffy Books in Homes who are passionate about inspiring tamariki; they promote diversity, acknowledge that every child is different when it comes to reading and enthusiastically share the idea that reading is cool.

The Duffy song, an incredibly catchy tune initially recorded in 1999, encourages children to be ‘proud’ of being a ‘Duffy kid’ and establishes a strong shared identity within the school community and across Aotearoa. Schools continue to be proactive, learning the song so it can be sung and performed at each Duffy assembly.

Alan Lyth agrees that these assemblies are a particular treat for the children. While the Duffy Theatre actors captivate their young audiences with their tenacious and inclusive performances, whānau members are also encouraged to attend, often receiving their very own awards presented by the Duffy Programme – in this way, the programme really extends beyond the school gates.

The success of the scheme is also reinforced at ground level, with Alan Lyth agreeing that the benefits of the programme have been immeasurable and that the genuine joy children and parents experience when receiving their Duffy books is a real pleasure for him in his role as a principal.

Newly eligible schools are encouraged to apply for the next intake, closing at the end of October.

This article was originally published in the Education Gazette

 

 

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