Inspiring Read-aloud Stories: WORD Christchurch 2022

How to become a writer? What are a writer's books inspired by? Five children's writers and one illustrator answered these questions with their life experience. They met students from eleven schools, ranging from primary to high school, in two sessions of the Read Aloud Schools Day event.

Simon Pollard is a spider biologist, whose book entitled Why is That Spider Dancing? was a finalist for the Elsie Locke award for non-fiction in the 2022 Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. Simon's speech was engaging. He wowed his young audience with interesting photos of various spider species he took throughout his career and wove his experience into fun facts about spiders in plain language. He explained,

Why is the male spider dancing? The reason for dancing is the male goes to the female saying, "look at me, I can dance. Would I be a good dad?"

His passion for observing and researching spiders was impressive.

When I was young, my favourite jungle was at home, the garden. I went there and looked at the animals. I was looking at a big fat jumping spider that tried to drag a fly into a hole but couldn't get in. It was like watching a movie.

His narrative seems to bring me to the scenes in E.B. White's Charlotte's Web

Dr. Maysoon Salama is a scholar and the co-founder and manager of two An-Nur Childcare Centres.She introduced her first children's book entitled . Maysoon lost her beloved son Ata who is a Christchurch mosque terror attack victim in 2019. This book is for her granddaughter Aya, who is Ata’s daughter. She explained,

I went through so much pain... I decided to channel my feelings into a special children's story which caters for Aya and other children who experienced the loss of their loved ones ... when I was looking after the center of caterpillars during the lockdown, I saw the life cycle of a butterfly... Aya and I were so attached to the butterfly. Instantaneously, I linked to the loss of Ata and had the story idea. 

Graci Kim is an international bestselling author of the Korean myth-inspired trilogy The Last Fallen Star, The Last Fallen Moon, and The Last Fallen Realm. When she was young, the library was a place she felt safe and happy. She said,

I went to the library every week. When I came back with books stacked up to my chin, I felt that I was the wealthiest person in the world. 

She loved to read about heroes in books and asked herself why she couldn't live a life like the heroes in books. She explained that when you live your life as an adventure, life becomes fun. She shared her experience in her previous life with multiple titles as a  Korean-Kiwi diplomat, a cooking show host, and a business owner who turned children’s drawings into cuddly toys. She encouraged students to be curious, playful, and resilient, just like heroes in books. 

Georgia Latu is the fifteen-year-old chief executive behind Pōtiki Poi, a business that makes, sells, and distributes poi and earrings. She wrote her first book entitled

Lily Emo is an award-winning illustrator for Margaret Mahy’s The Boy Who Made Things Up. She shared her love of drawing and how she entered an illustrator competition and got a chance to illustrate Margaret Mahy's book. For her, illustrating a book is a creative process that needs to use imagination to draw characters. Lily encouraged students by saying,

I hope lots of you have a chance to be inspired and keep illustrating as well.

Maria Gill is a talented writer of children's books including ANZAC Heroes, which won the 2016 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award and the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults Non-fiction Award. Maria shared her books The King's Medal, Ice Breaker, and Abel Tasman. She also talked about the process of writing nonfiction books which starts with collecting resources and research. Maria expressed her passion for writing true stories readable for children. She shared her highlight and said,

I really enjoy interviewing people. I meet incredible people and really miss the part of work. 

The five writers and one illustrator all have different backgrounds and experiences. Their speeches covered various topics. However, they have something in common. They were inspired by what they experienced and read. In turn, they inspire young readers with their life stories which have been made into books.  

As George R.R. Martin says, 

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only once. 

To enrich your and your children's lives, you can simply join the library, borrow books and read!

Read books by the writers

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