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Speech To Launch A Research Report Into Reading

Acknowledgments

Minster Of Education
Speech To Launch A Research Report Into Reading
Kawakawa Primary School

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

This is my first visit to Northland as Minister of Education and I am pleased to be here for what is such a celebratory occasion.

Programmes like 'Magic Box' are really exciting because they give us hope.

We all know the importance of good literacy skills.

A few generations ago it wasn’t that important. Many of my forebears signed with a cross when they came to New Zealand – I’ve seen some of the records. None of my grandparents went to secondary school. Working class children didn’t early last century in New Zealand.

Even when I left school there were plenty of jobs available for people who couldn’t read. Farm work, meat works, many assembly line jobs. You didn’t need qualifications to drive heavy machinery. But times have changed.

Today even what is known as unskilled or semi-skilled work requires literacy skills. Computerisation of lines means that training is necessary and often that training includes manuals and similar documents.

You just have to be able to read.

And that is why it is unacceptable to have adult functional illiteracy levels at around 20%. To fail to teach a young person to read is to almost certainly condemn them to unemployment.

That's why I welcome initiatives like 'Magic Box'. They are tackling issues like poor literacy rates by developing resources that are fun and innovative to help children enjoy learning.

I'd like to thank Wendy Pye for the leadership she has shown in this area. Wendy is running a successful business. But it is a business that has the potential to significantly alter what future New Zealand looks like.

Our society will be greatly enhanced in future generations if we tackle literacy now.

I'd like to thank Professor Warwick Elley and acknowledge the effort he has put into evaluating this project. Evaluation of projects like Magic Box is crucial if we are determine the most effective and efficient ways of teaching children to read.

Thank you as well to Stephen Tindall and the Tindall Foundation for funding that work. I hope businesses like yours will reap the benefits of projects like Magic Box in years to come through greater literacy skills among prospective staff.

It's particularly relevant to me to be in Northland supporting this launch. As an MP representing an urban electorate, I make a special effort to get out of Wellington and visit rural areas just to make sure that I have a more balanced view of schools' needs than I would by only visiting schools in Wainuiomata.

About 18 months ago, I spent three days visiting schools in Northland. Talking to teachers, principals, parents and students. It was probably the most valuable three days I experienced in terms of developing the education policy that we are now implementing in Government.

There are real problems here. The rurality of some schools can make it very hard to attract qualified staff and it also makes accessing professional development difficult. There are a lot of community problems here that spill over into the schools and make learning more difficult. But there are also a lot of dedicated and motivated people who really want to make a difference.

As a Government, we are endeavouring to develop initiatives that will support you to give your children a better start in life. I've heard it said that many of today's five-year-olds will work in jobs as adults that don’t even exist now. We can only imagine what they may be. But chances are that whatever those jobs might entail, the people doing them, will have to know how to read. That's why I am happy to support today's launch.

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