Monday, 21 January 2013

Support Duffy on International Book Giving Day

We’re very happy to be associated with International Book Giving Day on February 14.

It’s great to see an initiative that aligns so closely with what we’re trying to achieve here in New Zealand.

Duffy Books in Homes gives free books, three times a year, to over 100,000 New Zealand children in 529 lower-decile schools and 217 Early Childhood centres.  These schools and centres are spread from the Far North to Bluff.

We currently give away an average of more than one book every minute of every day of the year.  In the last year alone the programme has given away more than 600,000 books.

Since 1993 over 8,000,000 books have been given to hundreds of thousands of students from low income homes.

A combination of schools, sponsors and the Government has made it possible to give away so many books.  Each pays approximately a third of the total cost of the programme, equating to around $13.50 per child, per year.

The programme was founded by Alan Duff, author of ‘Once Were Warriors’ and philanthropist Christine Fernyhough who saw that many homes in New Zealand were ‘bookless.’

Our vision is to break the cycle of booklessness in New Zealand homes by inspiring a love of books in Duffy children so they become adults who inspire a love of reading.

We give children a minimum of five brand new books of their choice each year at no charge.  In addition, children can earn weekly ‘Caught Being Good’ book awards as well as other awards for effort and attitude.  Prominent New Zealand Role Models present the books and spread the message ‘It’s Cool to Read and Cool to Achieve!’  Sponsors enjoy the opportunity to hand out books at these special assemblies.

Other features include two travelling theatre groups which perform to schools each year, awards for parents and grandparents and books for preschool siblings on their birthdays

Schools in the programme notice an improved attitude towards books and reading.  Changes include less theft, vandalism and bullying within schools.

Past research has shown improvements in reading scores of up to 35% for schools joining the programme.  Current research shows that kids in ‘Duffy’ schools show decreased signs of a drop in reading achievement over the summer holidays – an issue which schools have traditionally struggled with.

We’re most proud of becoming an integral part of so many schools’ literacy programmes and giving children something of their own to treasure.  As the original ‘Duffy kids’ are now beginning to have children of their own one of our greatest rewards is to see how they are passing on their love of reading to their own children.

Duffy kids who have gone on to success in later life include World BMX champion and Olympic Silver medallist Sarah Walker and 2010 Miss World New Zealand Cody Yerkovich.

You can help us give even more books to New Zealand children by making a donation.  As little as $5 will buy one book for a child while $50 will give a child all the services and benefits of the programme for a whole year.

You can even Donate Your Desktop space to us and help to sponsor a Duffy kid at no cost whatsoever.

For more information please visit the Donations Page of our website.

Friday, 15 July 2011

MPs swap bills for books

MPs have been out in force this week, but not to pass legislation or campaign for the upcoming elections.  They have presented almost 100,000 books to children in low-decile schools throughout the country.

Since 1999 Government Book Week has been a highlight of the school year for children involved in the Duffy Books programme.  The Ministry of Education donates a book to every Duffy kid which they choose from a catalogue, much like the Lucky Book Club brochures that so many children have grown up with.

However, while Lucky Books are an exciting part of many children’s time at school, those in low income areas are often not able to afford their cost.  So while Duffy Books in Homes, schools and sponsors work hard to fundraise for books in Terms One and Three, the Government makes sure that Term Two’s books make it into children’s hands at no cost.

Minister of Education, Hon Anne Tolley, was just one of the MPs supporting the initiative.

“Many schools will have a visit from a Member of Parliament to hand out books that the Government has sponsored.  I know that, like me, the politicians enjoy their time in schools and the opportunity to encourage a love of reading and promoting the inspirational message It’s Cool to Read and Cool to Achieve,” she said.

In the last year alone the Government has donated more than 1.3 million dollars to ensure that children who would otherwise not have easy access to reading material not only have books available, but also experience the joy of book ownership.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The most famous Kiwi song you've never heard

In August 1999 at Stebbings Recording Studio singers recorded a song for children in schools involved in fledgling literacy charity Duffy Books in Homes.  Written by Jan Hellriegel and Toi Iti, with music by Jan Hellriegel and Dave Dobbyn, ‘Read About It – The Duffy Song’ was conceived as an inspirational song for children to sing when they received free books at special school assemblies.

On April 11 2011, Rikki Morris and Jackie Clarke visited Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios to record a fresh version of a song which doesn’t get radio time or feature on lists of the country’s greatest singles.  However, it is now sung by 100,000 children in hundreds of schools around New Zealand every year.

Despite its widespread appeal in schools, most people have never heard the lyrics ‘Tall as a Totara, Duffy kids will read around the world.’  But mention that line to a child in any one of 542 Duffy schools nationwide and they’ll be able to sing the song from start to finish.

With help from producer Wayne Bell, sound engineer Jordan Stone and songwriter Jan Hellriegel who helped coordinate the recording of the new version, Rikki and Jackie have given kids in low-decile schools an updated version of a true Kiwi classic.

"Knowing that "The Duffy Song" has been enjoyed by so many is a highlight of my career and something that I am very proud of,” says Jan Hellriegel.

The song is about to go global.  Duffy Books in Homes now reaches schools in the USA and Australia and versions substituting ‘Redwood’ and ‘Gum Tree’ for ‘Totara’ join the Kiwi version as downloads on Amplifier and iTunes from today.


Not only that, multi-talented hip-hop artist Anonymouz has remixed the song to create hip hop and reggae versions.

With the support of Amplifier and Native Tongue Music Publishing, the majority of proceeds from downloads will go directly to Duffy Books in Homes.

All versions, both new and old, can be downloaded from:

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Message from Alan Duff

Greetings, everyone.  Alan Duff reporting in from my May schools visits which I thought you might be interested in hearing about.  Firstly, good to report that our Duffy schools remain strongly passionate about the programme.  And, sad as it was to see the earthquake damage at some of our Christchurch schools, the kids were upbeat and getting on with it.

It was neat to hear their tales of reacting as they had been taught to do when the quake struck.  “We went into turtle positions!”  “It was scary but cool too.”  “The ground was rolling up and down!” as the quake happened when the children were out on the playground, luckily.

Yet when I started handing out books you would not have thought they’d gone through such a frightening experience.  Kids excitedly started reading their books and not caring what Duffy had to say!  Goes to show, eh, the power of books!

One of the many joys of being involved with Duffy Books is my visits to the schools; I can tell you, I never get tired of doing it.  Tired at the end of the day, sure, but I feel uplifted, indeed privileged, to be able to experience the children in their unpredictable moments, take their questions, see the expressions.  Some ask incredibly intelligent questions.  And you should try holding the attention of 20 or 30 five and six year olds.  It is hard, I tell you.

One little boy piped up and said, “My Mum reads to me. But Dad reads better.”  When I asked him why, he said, “Because he gives me a ice-block.”!!  Of course a lot of kids don’t have a Dad, as you single Mums will well know.  Yes, it is a modern fact of life but still, kids miss the presence of a dad.  I see it in kids who start talking about their absent father and then they clam up.  I do understand.  The Duffy Team understands.  It’s why we’ve stayed around for over 15 years.  People are hurting.  Mums, grandmothers, the kids.

So why am I bringing this sort of stuff up?  I guess as a way of saying that I personally understand the home situations.  It’s why any kid who comes up to give Duffy a cuddle I give a big cuddle back.  It’s why we send Role Models, so the children can have someone to look up to and aspire to be like.  It’s why I wrote the Maori Heroes book.  Because our kids need people – heroes – to look up to.

At the start of the Maori Heroes book I spoke of the heroic single Mums.  The heroic kids who never give up and so eventually achieve something.  It is the reason we have Role Model visits, of anyone from an All Black to a television star to a local person known to everyone in her or his community.  They are someone to look up to.

Now, we can’t fix all the pain and hurt we see.  We can only do our little bit.  Just be assured that when all else fails the children can take refuge in a book, they can find sanctuary, comfort.  At the same time their imagination develops, so does their intelligence, their word power.  With these tools we give them better hope for the future.  Which is why we’ll be around in another 15 years making sure our Duffy kids get books and all the other parts of our programme.  Thanks for listening.


Alan Duff

Monday, 9 May 2011

Book retailer gets behind Christchurch schools


Paper Plus Group today begins the distribution of almost 36,000 books collected as part of their book drive for the children of Christchurch.  The books, both new and used, were donated at Paper Plus and Take Note stores nationwide in response to the February earthquake.

The books are being distributed at all 34 schools in the city involved in the Duffy Books in Homes programme.  Schools involved in the programme are all lower decile and their families have been amongst the worst affected by the tragic earthquakes of September and February. The Paper Plus Group is being assisted by logistics firm and Duffy Books in Homes sponsor Mainfreight who will ensure that the thousands of books get to their destinations in Christchurch.

The books are being distributed during special Duffy Role Model assemblies in which well-known New Zealanders such as Linda Vagana, Dallas and Julie Seymour and the teams from What Now! and The Erin Simpson Show take the time to visit schools and spread the message ‘It’s Cool to Read and Cool to Achieve.’  The assemblies were originally scheduled to take place in Term One but have been moved to the Term Two as a result of the earthquake.

Also in attendance at the assemblies will be representatives from the eight Christchurch Paper Plus stores. They will help present books collected from Paper Plus and Take Note stores throughout New Zealand.

Paper Plus Group CEO, Rob Smith, was impressed with the support shown by communities around the country. “After the earthquake we put our heads together to see how Paper Plus and Take Note could help out and we are delighted at the response to our book drive. Our customers around New Zealand have really pulled together to get the kids of Christchurch something of real value” he said.

Linda Vagana, General Manager of Duffy Books in Homes, was thrilled with the support from the Paper Plus Group, “Our efforts to promote family literacy have really been hampered in Christchurch.  We’re delighted that the Paper Plus Group and their customers have chosen to support our children and their families with such an amazing donation,’ she said.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Prime Minister turns storyteller for Otara kids

Prime Minister John Key traded his office at the Beehive for a seat in front of hundreds of kids when he attended the Otara Literacy Day on April 9.

The Prime Minister sat down to read the book ‘Quaky Cat’ to the kids in attendance. The book, published by Scholastic and written by Diana Noonan and Gavin Bishop, tells the story of pets that were displaced in the wake of the September earthquake in Christchurch. Proceeds from the sale of the book are going towards the ongoing earthquake relief effort.

The bi-annual literacy day, hosted this year by Tangaroa College, brought together schools and families from around Otara with the aim of inspiring all members of the community to realise that literacy is a key driver of success. The theme for this year’s event was “Building Learning Families”.

Running since 2005, the event is coordinated by the Otara Boards’ Forum Inc., a non-profit organisation with an educational focus. Its vision is “Building Education in Otara” and it currently works with the majority of Otara schools.

The day was supported by Scholastic New Zealand, Mainfreight, Four Winds Foundation, Te Puni Kokiri, Lion Foundation and Office Max. Scholastic provided a mountain of books to give away to children at the end of the event.

Duffy also played a major part. The ‘It’s in the Book’, quiz in which children got the chance to win prizes was a big success.

General Manager, Linda Vagana reports that "Saturday's Literacy Day really demonstrated Otara's incredible community spirit. 
We were thrilled that the Prime Minister was able to take the time out of his busy schedule to read 'Quaky Cat' to all the children present.  Just as importantly, we were hugely encouraged to see Otara's commitment to literacy which seems to get greater and greater each time this event is held".

Friday, 1 April 2011

Some positive news

It's great to see some good news coming out of the educational sector at a time when it's easy to find the negatives.

The New Zealand Herald today reports that the number of Maori students who qualified to get into university went up by 3 per cent last year. A total of 47.6 per cent of Maori students gained entry, while in the previous year that figure was 44.1 per cent.

Added to this, both Maori and Pasifika students studying towards NCEA Level 1 did better last year, compared with results in 2009.

The jumps are smaller for Pasifika students so this remains an area to focus on but if the trends continue then the future is looking brighter for those students who have traditionally been left behind.