Enlisting Zombies to boost teen literacy
A former provincial newspaper journalist is hoping to enlist Zombies in the fight to improve teen literacy.
Paul Charman, who reported for newspapers in Taranaki, King Country, Rangitikei, Auckland and Northland, says his new book “The Real Taranaki Zombies – Part 1” was written primarily to get more boys involved with books.
“It aims to engage the interest of boys aged around 14-years and over, with plenty of pictures and references to motorcycles, guns, military aircraft, old forgotten tunnels and war mysteries,” says Charman.
“According to the latest research we really do need to reach boys in this age group, as many in the segment say they no longer read for enjoyment, but only when they need to.
“I was inspired to write my story after volunteering at half a dozen of the reading camps run by the late Graham Crawshaw, on his farm at Arapohue, near Dargaville,” says Charman.
“Graham, who died in 2012, was a great character who combined phonics-based literacy lessons with bushcraft, offering an alternative learning programme for boys left totally marginalised within the mainstream education system.
“I’m not a gifted children’s worker like Graham was, but I can write stories, so my contribution to the cause will be to write adventure stories based on experiences I’ve had over 40-plus years as a country journalist.”
Charman says his “Zombies” story combines strange but true events he experienced during a “checkered career”, including the discovery of a Second World War aircraft in the Taranaki/Egmont National Park in 1974, and seeing the remains of a 1940s secret weapons programme run at the Whangaparaoa Military Camp.
“The military camp is a pretty impressive place to this day, as it has deep tunnels which once housed a coastal artillery base. During World War II Kiwi scientists also developed a "tsunami weapon" there. The crashed plane was discovered by a young goat hunter named Errol Clince, after being hidden in thick bush for more than 30 years.
“I put the two together to create a Zombie story, whose heroes are motorbike-riding teenagers. There’s lots of historic information about the Pacific War, which impacted New Zealand in a massive way during the 1940s.”
Charman was careful to dedicate the book to Graham Crawshaw, and others who feel strongly about getting youngsters reading.
“We mustn’t be sanguine about a generation of children choosing not to read. Love of reading will open the door for them to succeed in life -- poor literacy will simply hold them back.”