Established in 1972 as a response to the UNESCO International Year of the Book, Dame Fiona Kidman was the founding secretary. Under her wise guidance and that of the first honorary president the late Sir Keith Sinclair, the Book Council delivered a range of programmes and initiatives aimed at increasing interest in books and reading and the profession of writing.
In 1973, the Council delivered ‘Operation Book Flood’ where 500 books were distributed to many classrooms in South Auckland and the impact evaluated.The greater availability of books stimulated students to read and their literacy improved. Fiji and Australia soon followed with a similar programme. This set the stage for the Council’s Writers in Schools programme which began in 1974. Today the programme is still going strong, with 40, 000 students each year inspired to read more by New Zealand authors.
Over the past four decades, the Book Council has delivered a range of programmes including the popular Meet the Author events, Writers Visiting Prisons and Words on Wheels tours. In the late 90s, the Council was part of trans-Tasman exchanges, supporting New Zealand authors across the ditch to get more exposure for their work.
Today, the Book Council is as determined as ever that more New Zealanders read more, and that New Zealand becomes a nation of readers. At our recent annual lecture, we launched the 80 More campaign to expand the reach of the Writers in Schools programme.
We are also working with like-minded organisations to explore ways to keep boys and young men reading. We proudly advocate for the importance of reading and the importance of New Zealand stories and writers and intend to keep doing so for another four decades at the least.