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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Reading series and methods

Reading series and methods

There is no comprehensive account of the history of reading and reading methods in New Zealand after Price's 1987 essay, though Price himself has a work in progress on the history of reading books from 1900. However, the number of studies and papers on reading grows exponentially from the 1950s. Much of the research was initiated and funded by the Department (now Ministry) of Education and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). Hig[h]lights in Education 1816-1985 (1986) is a useful checklist of major events in education, and Roger Openshaw's 'Schooling in
B;ack and white photograph

Young readers at an unidentified Wellington kindergarten in the 1930s, observed by photographer Stanley Polkinghorne Andrew (1879?-1964). At least one scholar has her book upside down. In the late 1990s kindergartens are only one of a range of early childhood services which include the Māori language kōhanga reo, and Pacific Island language groups; in 1995 there were 3,823 services licensed by the Ministry of Education, of which 591 were kindergartens and 774 were kōhanga reo. (S.P. Andrew Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, reference number F-43544-1/2-)

the 50's and 60's' (1991) and Price's School Books Published in New Zealand to 1960 (1992) provide accounts of the materials and educational methods of those years. Price (1992) is a supplement to Bagnall's New Zealand National Bibliography to the year 1960 which excluded school textbooks; Price contains about 2,000 titles listed in chronological order under subject headings.

The production of reading materials has been a traditional activity of the Department/Ministry of Education dating back to before the 1920s; reading readiness has latterly been a focus of its research and publication. The School Journal, which began in 1907, has been a continuous source of reading material for schools. Provided free to every child monthly until the late 1950s, it is a mix of fiction and non-fiction produced by local writers and was accompanied (1948-80) by School Bulletins for primary and post-primary students, also published by the Department. In 1989 the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education was corporatised into Learning Media Ltd, which continues to produce the Journal and the Ready to Read series, as well as handbooks for teachers on reading and writing. Its School Journal Catalogue (1996) is a current index.

The Department of Education also produced guides for teachers to help them choose readers: Books for Infant Classes (1969), a checklist which gave the readers a rating; Books for Junior Classes (1978), now published every two years (the most recent in 1996), a classified guide to commercially-published material; Reading in Junior Classes (1991); and The Learner as a Reader (1996), which has a section on recent reading resources produced by the Ministry of Education.

Janet and John, which replaced Whitcombe's Progressive Readers series in 1949, used a combination of phonic analysis pre-reading and 'look and say' vocabulary learning, but the early issues were weak on narrative. (Run, John, Run: Watch, Janet, Watch, a study of sex-role stereotyping in infant readers was published in 1975, and Anne Else critiqued the sexism and racism of Janet and John readers in a paper given at the first annual conference of the History of the Book in New Zealand, Auckland, 1995.) Initially there were seven books accompanied by a handbook for teachers, but it was found they needed supplementing to reduce the steepness of the learning curve. In 1963 the Department of Education published the New Zealand-centred Ready to Read series of 12 little and six big books. The Ready to Read series produces new titles every year and is issued to all New Zealand schools with junior classes; support materials include An Introduction to Ready to Read (1993).

At the invitation of the Department of Education, a number of publishers also began publishing supplementary little book series in the 1960s: Reed's Read it Yourself books and the Environmental readers, Paul's Book Arcade Playtime readers, Whitcombe and Tombs's Step Along Stories, and Price Milburn. Price Milburn's 32 PM Supplementary Readers were published 1963-65 and followed the same graded colour covers and vocabularies as Ready to Read. In 1968 Price Milburn began to export to America and Britain. The books were revised in 1969 and included in the long-running series PM Story Readers, many of them written by Beverley Randell, one of the best known and most prolific writers of story readers for children. Hugh Price's Beverley Randell: A Checklist of Children's Books Written by Her, 1955-1995 (1996) indicates the scope of her writing and the series of children's books available.

Shortland introduced the Story Box series for five- to eight-year-olds to New Zealand schools in 1978 and started exporting them in 1979. Many of the readers were written by Joy Cowley, the well-known novelist. Wendy Pye's reading scheme Jellybeans (for the parent market) began in 1985 and contains about 200 titles, again many written by already well-known writers like Cowley and Margaret Mahy. A number of more recent issues have also come out in Māori translations. Pye's export of school readers to Europe and the US has been phenomenally successful and she has also been the first publisher in the world to successfully market an educational reading scheme on video. Thomas Nelson took over from Price Milburn and produces picture books and other early reading material. In 1997 Learning Media expanded into the United States, introducing two new children's programmes—Learning Media Literacy and Learning Media Professional—with 140 New Zealand children's books and materials adapted for the American market.