Book-distribution project gains award

Otago Girls' High School pupils (from left) Jisu Lee, Olivia Severins, Beth Chapman and Taryn...
Otago Girls' High School pupils (from left) Jisu Lee, Olivia Severins, Beth Chapman and Taryn Swete with some of the children's books they have collected so far, to be distributed to decile 1-5 primary schools in Dunedin. Photo by Linda Robertson.
A school project aimed at collecting children's books and redistributing them to low-decile Dunedin primary schools has won a national award for four Otago Girls' High School pupils.

Jisu Lee (17), Olivia Severins (17), Beth Chapman (18) and Taryn Swete (17) won the Otago Social Enterprise Competition in Dunedin earlier this month and recently went on to the P3 Foundation's Social Enterprise Competition finals in Auckland, where they won the Save the Children Award for the Best New Zealand Social Innovation.

Jisu said their Book Buddies project was inspired by the ''surprising'' number of primary pupils coming to secondary school who were struggling to read.

''We think the key to improving this situation is targeting them at a younger age.''

Beth said there were a lot of children from less privileged families where books were not as accessible, so the project aimed to collect ''pre-loved'' children's books and give them to children in decile 1-5 primary schools in Dunedin.

So far, the girls have collected about 50 second-hand books from a school book drive, and hope to collect many more by establishing donation boxes outside libraries and at other Dunedin secondary schools.

Dunedin residents wishing to give children's books can leave them at the Otago Girls' High School office.

It was hoped they would be able to distribute their first books later this year.

Save the Children New Zealand chief executive Heather Hayden described the girls' project as a ''great and carefully researched idea''.

She said it met the competition's requirement of using business strategies to address one of the Millennium Development Goals - in this case, boosting education and literacy.

''They drew on research that growing up in a bookish home is a key factor in academic achievement,'' she said.

As part of their social enterprise awards, the girls won $500 at the Otago final and $1500 at the national final, which they will use to help develop their project.

In the long term, they want to establish a peer reading network for primary schools in Dunedin, where year 13 pupils from secondary schools in the city go to primary schools and help pupils with their reading.

Later this year, they plan to establish a club at Otago Girls' High School that will keep the project running in perpetuity.

Ten teams from throughout New Zealand presented their ideas at the finals, held at the Auckland University of Technology.

Auckland International College won the best overall project for Car Pool to School - a secure website that can help students and parents car pool.

The runner-up was St Margaret's College, in Christchurch, for Educate Girls Globally - encouraging international schools to fundraise for girls' education and partnering with Room to Read to build a school in Nepal.



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