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Kiwi literary whizz heads to Britain

Kiwi literary whizz heads to Britain

Wayne Mills’ achievement inspiring thousands of New Zealand children to read has caught the imagination of British educators and he is about to head their way.

The inventor of the popular ‘Kids’ Lit Quiz’ that has swept New Zealand schools is taking his unique literature competition for 12 and 13 year olds to Britain on the 20th of November. His visit is being sponsored by London’s prestigious Times Educational Supplement newspaper.

Beginning in London, Wayne will run the quiz throughout ten regions in Britain, culminating in the final in Newcastle on 18th of December. Approximately 1200 British schoolchildren are competing. The children will be asked 100 questions encompassing writers ranging from Anne Fine to Michael Morpurgo and including, of course, J K Rowling.

In April, Wayne was invited to Britain to run a trial quiz in Newcastle. It was so successful that he was offered sponsorship by the Times to run the quiz nationwide.

Now in its thirteenth year in New Zealand, the Kids’ Lit Quiz sponsored here by Paper Plus has grown from 14 teams in 1991 to 348 teams in 2003. Schools all over New Zealand enter as part of the annual Storylines Festival of Writers and Illustrators. Finals are held each year at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

Wayne Mills is a senior lecturer in language education at Auckland College of Education and is President of the Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand that runs Storylines. “To me the quiz is about rewarding kids who love reading and who are good at it. For decades in schools we’ve recognized achievement in other arenas – through science fairs, mathex, and above all, in sport. There was nothing for our passionate young readers. The competitive side to the quiz is a real draw and I believe it is specifically benefiting boys as a result.”

Teams of four students work together to answer wide-ranging literary questions covering a range of genres, from the classics to fantasy to poetry.

“Schools tell me about the excitement the quiz causes amongst children as they prepare. For schools there’s a tangible incentive to which their best readers can aspire.

“I think part of the receptiveness to the quiz overseas is a growing excitement worldwide about literature for children. I think now is a better time in the history of children’s literature than any other. Clearly the Harry Potter phenomenon is huge in this, but we have a simply dazzling array of children’s writers so we are seeing both quantity and quality in the genre that’s unprecedented.”

The UK trip is the first stop-off in his bigger plan to take the Kids’ Lit Quiz to all English-speaking countries.

“My long-term vision for the quiz is for a world literary event to be staged in New Zealand, with teams from Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Canada, the USA, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. “

Reaction from a child in Britain

On the eve of Wayne’s trip, a mother in Britain writes to him:

“I just wanted to let you know what a tremendous effect your competition has had on my son. Ever since I can remember my son has read an incredible amount .. He reads because he loves it; gets drawn into every adventure, almost lives the characters written about. As soon as he was offered a place on a team he rang up to accept and has been so excited ever since. His team might do well, they might not, but it doesn’t really matter because he has been inspired and this has helped him to understand that there are other people out there who read because they love it and not necessarily because they have to for school….Strange, isn’t it, that someone from New Zealand can have such a profound effect on a child half way round the world and you’ve never even met! Thanks again, you’re doing brilliant work and I know that your visit to the UK will be wonderful for everyone involved.”

For more information: Wayne Mills, Auckland College of Education, Ph (09) 623 8899 x 8711. Susan Pattullo, Public Relations Coordinator, Ph (09) 623 8899 x 8782 / (027) 588 0557

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