Topic: The day the Mayor’s chair went to Red Square (2014)

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Librarian Jocelyn Mist writes about International Literacy Day (2014) - the day that the Mayor's chair went to Red Square and became the focus of a mass reading event. Photographs: Lee Switzer.

When the Mayor’s chair went to Red Square on Monday 8 September 2014 it became a focus at a mass reading event. Members of the public and some Tauranga City Council staff took turns sitting on it to have their photo taken reading. Taking this year’s celebration of International Literacy Day out of the library and into the community and inviting everyone to join in Random Acts of Reading was a big success. Next year it may become a ‘flash mob’!

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The Mayor and some elected members joined workers, families and community representatives from Literacy and Language Bay of Plenty and Altrusa Tauranga as they picnicked and read during their lunch break. Those ‘caught in the act’ reading in Red Square, were rewarded with ‘spot prizes’ or goodies.

Readers at bus-stops, walking along the street or sitting in a cafe with newspapers near Papamoa and Greerton Libraries were encouraged, by staff giving out chocolate treats. The Library Event’s Team, who organised the event, are still laughing about their colleague Harley being asked “do you want a book?’, when he was reading his smart phone and Cr Steve Morris trying to use his book as a sunshade for his head! The photos capture something of the relaxed atmosphere. 

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Each year we partner with a Literacy Aotearoa not-for-profit voluntary organisation, Literacy and Language Bay of Plenty, which successfully assists local adults to improve their reading, writing and numeracy skills. The Bay of Plenty Times Saturday 30 August 2014 issue (p. 11) published the heart-warming story of Tauranga man’s Gavin Malcom Todd’s experience of learning to read in his early 50s. A group of nine ladies from eight different nationalities on an English Language Partners ‘Learn Kiwi English’ course thorough enjoyed following up their library visit with the opportunity to join with the community as we sat around in the sun and read in the middle of the CBD.

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International Literacy day is a ‘good fit’ with the library so we’ve been running reading events such as ‘The Great Read’ since 2009. We continue to receive the enthusiastic support of ladies from the literacy focused Tauranga Altrusa club. Other local community education groups are always interested too as International Literacy Day appropriately falls within Adult Learner’s Week in New Zealand.

UNESCO’s International Literacy Day is held on the same date worldwide each year. It highlights that over 860 million adults worldwide are illiterate and this includes more women than men. While we are fortunate in New Zealand, there are reportedly over one million adults who have literacy difficulties in their everyday lives that impact on their ‘life chances’, especially in the workplace. It was good to remember this as we celebrated the opportunities we have in Tauranga to access and enjoy reading resources freely.    

Jocelyn Mist, Information Librarian, Tauranga City Libraries

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The day the Mayor’s chair went to Red Square (2014)