Book Review: An Unexpected Hero

Book Review

This is a great book! It is my first experience doing #NZreadaloud
and I love it. It has opened up many new and exciting
opportunities for me such as connecting with many different
schools and kids and even the author!
My classmates and I have learnt a lot of new things from this book
that will capture loads of attention. I learnt a lot about pacifism as
did others. We shared many connections with this book. For
example I sit with Nana and Grandad as they tell me about
war and what it was like as I run my fingers over the old war
medals that they have kept in memory of the war heroes. I
also made a connection with the main character as me and
my mum have a pancake Sunday. The author is a great writer.
This book teaches you many new and exciting things.
Matt Turner is uprooted from his normal everyday life and is
now roughing it in the country. Away from the bright city
lights he finally begins to open up his eyes and becomes
knowledgeable about pacifism. Learning about the war and
the times his hero lived through makes him see that horrible
things have happened. As this is happening a few interesting
secrets slip out including his own. His worst fear becomes
real and he is forced to face it. Of course though he has help.
From people close to him and a few that are quite
unexpected! His world is turned upside down but is it maybe
for the better?
I highly recommend this book to year 7 and 8. There is only
one downside, It’s too short! We just couldn’t get enough of it
as we became tangled in Matt’s world, learning loads along
the way! An unexpected hero is the best!

Jemma @ Hastings Intermediate

“In association with the New Zealand Book Council”

The New Zealand Book Council is our country’s national organisation dedicated to reading and readers. It was founded in 1972.

The Book Council has four key priorities which they are focusing on over the next three years; ONE of which is Promoting New Zealand Stories and Writers with a special focus on championing the next generation of New Zealand writers and their stories.

On 16th May 2018 author Karen Trebilcock introduced me to the Programmes Manager for NZ Book Council, Kathryn Carmody, (via email). This began a conversation between us about how the NZ Book Council could support #NZreadaloud.

Since the inaugural #NZreadaloud back in 2015, the team have set out to read and find the most suitable NZ books for all year levels involved. As much as this sounds like an easy task, it actually is anything but. Over the years we have learnt that there is a certain type of book which suits the purpose of #NZreadaloud but will also capture the interest of our tamariki; both to motivate them to read more and write more but also to get curious about stuff and use topics which come up for learner-led inquiry.

I know I speak on behalf of the team when I say we have read a heap of books in our search each Term (12 terms in total at this time) – novels, picture books and non-fiction – written by our wonderful NZ writers. Along the way each of us who lead a Year group have built up an impressive personal library for our classrooms; of books we have paid for ourselves.

When the offer arose as to how the NZ Book Council could help us at #NZreadaloud it was a no-brainer for us. Please assist us with the purchase of books! So then this happened:

The Book Council is offering financial support to #NZreadaloud to help with the purchase of new NZ books as part of the process around assessing which books to include in the programme each year.

The memorandum of understanding between the NZ Book Council and #NZreadaloud is a collaborative agreement which sees us working together to promote NZ authors and the building of a reading & writing culture. #NZreadaloud acknowledges the NZ Book Council as a partner and we will promote the organisation in all future presentations, conferences, or other media. In collaboration with the NZ Book Council classes participating in #NZreadaloud have opportunities to connect in authentic ways with our wonderful NZ authors through the Writers in Schools programme. From feedback we have received this is always a highlight for the students.

This is an incredibly exciting time for #NZreadaloud.

As a team of teachers we are committed to changing the way we deliver literacy to our tamariki. Of more importance though, is our dedication to changing the way our tamariki experience literacy. #NZreadaloud is a connected experience which has constructivist theory behind its purpose; providing reading experiences which differ from the way it has always been. Reading doesn’t have to be a solo activity, it doesn’t have to be a quiet activity, and it doesn’t have to be an ability based experience. Whole class Read Alouds sees us building understanding together, where discussion and analysis takes place with each other as we read thus the experience becoming a more inclusive and culturally sustaining one.

The Power and Promise of Read Alouds and Independent Readinga recent publication released from the ILA (International Literacy Association), quotes this:

“Effective read-alouds increase children’s vocabulary, listening comprehension, story schema, background knowledge, word recognition skills, and cognitive development. In
addition to these important academic benefits, read-alouds promote a love of literature, foster social interactions, and ignite a passion for lifelong reading habits.” 

More specifically, “read-alouds help emergent and beginning readers
gain understanding of book handling, print conventions, story
structure, literacy syntax, expressive language, and text organizational

This quote from the same publication confirms the reason behind Karen Wilson’s stoic commitment to promote #NZreadaloud to the Secondary sector as well as why Reading Aloud continues to be a valuable instructional practice for us at Intermediate level:

“Secondary literacy teachers must embrace the read-aloud as nonnegotiable instructional practice. Upper elementary and secondary students reap multiple benefits from teacher-led read-alouds, including building background knowledge and vocabulary and modelling of effective comprehension strategies. As teens embrace the social nature of literacy activities, effective teachers provide opportunities for students to personally connect literature to their lives. When we relegate read-alouds to the purview of elementary teachers, we overlook the power and joy of read-alouds across grade levels.”

Since its inception in 2015 the other aspect which we continually see develop during Reading Aloud is a student’s curiosity. By actively encouraging students to ask questions rather than answer them, we have seen our learners inquire into their own wonderings which arise from the book and build on their own knowledge through engaging in meaningful discussion with others and further research into areas of interest.

This quote from the same publication sums up exactly what we are trying to promote through #NZreadaloud, this is the difference:

“What matters more than merely reading aloud is the quality of the teacher–student book interaction. Read-alouds must be interactive, during which teachers briefly stop, model their thinking, ask and answer questions, and invite participation from students. In reading aloud, an effective teacher serves as an orchestra conductor, coordinating conversation among students, fostering aesthetic and efferent text responses, pushing students’ text reaction past surface-level responses, and weaving an intricate network of meaning.”

WOW … I have been trying to articulate EXACTLY this over the last 4 years!

It is also affirming to see this publication also mention this:

“Another key ingredient of effective read-alouds is purposeful selection of text.”

The selected books need to serve as “mirrors, windows, and doors so that students not
only see themselves reflected in stories, but also are able to consider perspectives of those who are different from themselves.”

This is the reason why book selection takes longer than we always want it to. We look for books with a suitable length for reading aloud (try to fit this into a 6 week time frame), with characters who our kids will relate to but who also offer a look into another’s world, books with familiar Kiwi settings, and books which have opportunities for students to inquire into particular topics of interest which arise in the story.

The team would like to thank the NZ Book Council for their support and the hunt for books has already started!


as much as we try to get #NZreadaloud out to other teachers through conferences (we presented at ULearn2017), local #educamps as well as school-based staff meetings, we were disappointed when our abstract for the inaugural New Zealand Primary Teachers Conference in Wellington was not accepted. Knowing the success we have seen and been told about, we were looking forward to getting #NZreadaloud out to a wider audience and gaining more traction. Unfortunately not to be … not this year anyway!

This response from Belinda (Year 1 / 2) shows the grit we need to continue to promote #NZreadaloud.

And this response shows the support we have from our amazing authors:

Despite set-backs, we will persevere in getting #NZreadaloud out to teachers in Aotearoa.

We look forward to what #NZreadaloud and NZ Book Council can do together in the future to continue promoting NZ writers and the culture of reading and writing.

Nga mihi mahana








What You Are Saying

I am writing a quick post to reflect on What You Are Saying from the Google Survey I posted in the FB group.

Like we all know, reflecting on what we are doing and getting feedback and feed-forward allows us to understand what is working and where the improvements need to be made.

Unfortunately, out of the many teachers who participated ACROSS the levels in Term 1, 2 & 3 this year only 15 teachers have gone onto the survey to share their feedback (it has been there all of Term 4). This is disappointing as it is the only way, as a team, we can really gauge what is working, where we need to make improvements, and how we can make the #NZreadaloud experience the best it can be for those teachers willing to step out of the ‘norm’ and try something different.

My concern is that when new teachers DO register and participate and their experience does not live up to what WE as a team know it can be, we need to know why this has happened. That is why the surveys are really vital.

Those of us on the team, myself (Year7 /8), the awesome Jemma Thorogood (Year 5 / 6) who leads this Year level from Tamatea Intermediate, the extraordinary Crystal Hewitt (Year 3 / 4) who is actively promoting #NZreadaloud wherever she can, the amazing Belinda Whyte (Year 1 / 2) who does this mahi on top of her work as a Resource Teacher of Literacy from her Levin school, and the ever-persevering Karen Wilson (Year 9 / 10) who continues to believe in #NZreadaloud for High School students and struggles to get others to do the same –  are totally and absolutely dedicated and committed to #NZreadaloud as a new (literacy) pedagogy. I put this in brackets because all the team know that ‘doing’ literacy this way is not only about literacy but about an integrated approach to all learning.

The 5 of us use (or have used when in a classroom)  #NZreadaloud in our classrooms over the last 3 (or 4 years for some of us) and have

watched reluctant readers learn to love stories

have watched learners understand language features and how they work and why authors use them because they are being exposed to them and taught about them IN CONTEXT

have seen our students writing improve HEAPS because they are being exposed to and taught text structure, great language use, conventions of text IN CONTEXT

have watched kids follow their own curiosities and wonderings and lead their own inquiries in the classroom

have watched as kids are so totally engaged in the stories being read that they ask us to keep reading and don’t want to wait for the next day

have seen the excitement of connecting to others outside the walls of our classrooms and learn alongside others around the country – whether that is via Edmodo, Twitter or through Google Hangouts – this includes the invaluable contributions from the many authors who give up their time to connect with the kids reading their books

have seen previously disengaged kids re-engage by using Sketchnoting as a way to follow along with a story

have listened and watched what a good reader does while reading – use of expression, pauses, tone, volume, and THINKING ALOUD

have watched how inclusive this pedagogy is – when everyone is involved together; kids get to listen to each others’ contributions, questions, and predictions and the thinking becomes visible to others which helps everyone learn how to interact with text – kids are teaching kids without even realising it

These are just skimming the surface of the learning which becomes visible during participation in #NZreadaloud.

I have digressed off the purpose of my post … the feedback and feed-forward!

Here it is with some of my own responses added underneath.

So word of mouth seems to be the way this kaupapa is spread. So we NEED teachers to continue to bring others on board. But this will only happen if their experience has been a positive one and they see the difference it can make.

Unfortunately due to the small numbers of respondents, this doesn’t really provide us with anything valid to make further decisions about which Year levels we need to target. I could make an assumption that Year 7 / 8 teachers are more invested in the success of #NZreadaloud as they are prepared to give their feedback. Or it could be that other teachers are not in the FB group where the survey was shared. GET IN THE FACEBOOK GROUP!

Although the majority of respondents were happy with their experience, the one respondent who wasn’t is what we need to focus on – WHY is this?

And here is something we can work on … our team leaders need to be ACTIVE in promoting good Digital Citizenship from the other teachers in their group. They need to ensure they are regularly communicating with teachers in their team and leading the way in regards to inappropriate commenting. The other issue which has arisen here is the lack of commitment from some teachers to the process. #NZreadaloud is not a ‘programme’ where you join and leave the rest up to the team leader. #NZreadaloud is not a ‘programme’ you join where ‘questions’ and ‘other stuff’ is provided to you. #NZreadaloud is about building other leaders and teachers having their own agency – what activities does the book lend itself to? Do we ALWAYS have to have ‘activities’ for the kids to ‘do’? Sometimes a hearty discussion in class and / or kids leading their own discussions in Edmodo or Twitter is just as valuable (if not more). If you sign up you need to understand this.

And then there is ALL this great feedback. THIS is the stuff which we as a team see and know. When it is done ‘properly’ with commitment AND NOT AN ADD-ON #NZreadaloud blows us away with what we see happen in the classroom. More importantly what the kids say about it.


I think the comment which stands out to me is ‘teachers need to take ownership’. Like I mentioned before, #NZreadaloud is not a ‘programme’ which you sign up for and others do the mahi for you. It is a collaborative initiative which was started originally because ‘why do we have to teach reading the way we have always done it’? #NZreadaloud is for teachers who want something more now, something different, something which can integrate other curriculum areas, something which flattens the walls of our classrooms and provides opportunities for transformational use of the devices our kids use in the classroom.

BUT it takes commitment on your part to involve yourself just like we are asking our kids to involve themselves. We need to model curiosity, we need to model how we post in Edmodo and ask questions to deepen their thinking, we need to set up connections via Google Hangouts or Twitter, we need to go into #NZreadaloud with ENTHUSIASM and belief that this can be something more than what they have had before. We MUST be prepared to demonstrate what a great reader does – act the stories out! Bring some emotion to the story. This is the stuff that will engage our kids. Let #NZreadaloud lead the inquiries your kids do. Pull out the wonderings from your kids and let them investigate these. Along the way teach them how to sketchnote – a lifelong skill. So much, so much.

I will leave it there now.

Some things for all participants to think about. Some work-ons for us as a team managing the Year groups –  to endeavour to help out our leaders and ensure they understand their vital role if we want to continue to build this connected literacy experience.

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa






‘Between’ Chapter Breakdown

Here is the chapter breakdown for ‘Between’ by Adele Broadbent

Wk 3 (6-10th August)    Chapter 1-6 (36 p)

Wk 4 (13-17th August)  Chapter 7-13 (40 p)

Wk 5 (20-24th August)  Chapter 14-19 (35 p)

Wk 6 (27-31st August)   Chapter 20-26 (43 p)

Wk 7 (3-7th Sept)           Chapter 27-34 (42 p)

Wk 8 (10-14th Sept)       Chapter 35-end (37 p)


Monday 23rd of April

Well after much deliberation the Yr 5&6 #NZreadaloud11 is ‘Dawn Raid’ by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.

“You’re having an amazing family holiday, one where everyone is there and all 18 of you are squeezed into one house. All of sudden it’s 4 o’clock in the morning and there’s banging and yelling and screaming. The police are in the house pulling people out of bed …”

It’s 1976 in Cannon’s Creek, Porirua, and the first McDonald’s in New Zealand has just opened. Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofia’s main worries are how she can earn enough pocket money to buy the go-go boots that are all the rage, and if she will die of embarrassment giving a speech she has to do for school! It comes as a surprise to Sofia and her family when her big brother, Lenny, talks about protests, overstayers and injustices against Pacific Islanders.

Sofia’s political awakening comes when police start storming homes early in the morning looking for immigrant overstayers and terrorising families. But they seem to be targeting only Pasifika people. Through her spirited diary entries, we join Sofia as she navigates life in the 1970s and is inspired by the courageous work of the Polynesian Panthers as they encourage immigrant families across New Zealand to stand up for their rights. In fact some of the Polynesian Panthers were interviewed and feature as real characters in the book.

This is the 28th book in the excellent My New Zealand Story series which brings to life significant events in our history as seen through the eyes of fictitious child diarists. The legacy of the dawns raids continues to affect families across New Zealand and the Pacific and Sofia’s story is a fascinating and important read for 9+ (


Saturday 4th May

The chapter breakdown for Dawn Raid is as follows:

(This text is in diary format so instead of page numbers I’ve given the diary dates instead)

Wk 2 (7-11 May) Pre reading activities

Wk 3 (14-18 May) Sun 20 June – Sat 3 July

Wk 4 (21-25 May) Sun 4 July – Wed 21 July

Wk 5 (28 – 1 June) Thurs 22 July – Tue 10 Aug

Wk 6 (4-8 June) 11 Aug – Tue 14 Sept

Wk 7 (11-15 June) Wed 15 Sept – Tue 19 Oct

Wk 8 (18-22 June) Wed 20 Oct – end (I did not include the historical notes in this as entirely up to you how you work these in with your class)