History of Reading Together® in New Zealand

Reading Together® Logo

1982 - 1983

The Reading Together® programme was developed, implemented and evaluated by Jeanne Biddulph in 1982, as part of her Masters degree at the University of Canterbury.

Jeanne was honoured in 1983 by the International Reading Association and the Canterbury Council of the International Reading Association for services in the promotion of Literacy, including the development and wider implementation of Reading Together®.

1982 - 2004

Between 1982 and 2004, hundreds of interested school leaders, teachers and community librarians throughout New Zealand implemented the Reading Together® programme and supported many thousands of families.

From 1982 until 2004, the Biddulph family funded most of the costs associated with Reading Together®, including research and development, provision of programme resources for educators and families, and travel expenses to seminars and conferences around New Zealand i.e. in response to widespread requests for information, support and resources. The programme spread rapidly via 'word of mouth' because it addresses an area of significant need, and the Biddulph family continued to provide voluntary support for educators, families and librarians throughout New Zealand.

Late 2004

In late 2004, the Biddulph family (operating as The Biddulph Group) began selling the Reading Together® resources to help recover some of the costs associated with supporting and disseminating the programme.


Additional research evidence about Reading Together® was gathered in a 2007 study funded by the NZ Ministry of Education BES Programme. The research explored the implementation of Reading Together® by the senior leadership team at St Joseph's Primary School, Otahuhu, Auckland.


The first NZ Ministry of Education support for Reading Together® occurred in 2008, when some funding was provided for its implementation in several schools in Rotorua.

2009 - 2011

In 2009, a NZ Ministry of Education publication reported that:

Parent 'help' with children's reading if too pressured has long-term negative effects (Robinson, Hohepa and Lloyd, 2009).

Some schools in Auckland received Ministry of Education support for Reading Together® between 2009 and 2011.

In 2011, at the request of Dr Pita Sharples, Associate Minister of Education, the Ministry of Education began planning a national project to scale up the implementation of Reading Together® across decile 1-3 schools, supported by their community libraries and also the National Library.


When the Reading Together® Project started in early 2012, The Biddulph Group wrote the following messages for participants who were new to Reading Together®:
- Reading Together® Community
- A message to Workshop Leaders
- A message to School Leaders
- A message to Librarians

In addition, the Ministry of Education National Project Manager (John Good) asked Jeanne to write a message for the Reading Together® Briefing Meetings held around New Zealand:
- A message from Jeanne Biddulph

In mid 2012, Manurewa Central School Principal Dr Laurie Thew reported that (reference available here, video available here):

The Reading Together® programme is the closest thing to a silver bullet we've ever seen.


Independent reports on the Reading Together® Project were commissioned by the Ministry of Education, and the Associate Minister of Education reported that (reference available here):

[Reading Together®] is a whānau-centred literacy programme, which is receiving absolutely glowing feedback. It not only supports children but also provides skills for parents and whānau members to support them participating in their children’s education.

In late 2013, Jeanne was invited by the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Education and Science Committee to write a Submission to the Committee's Inquiry into engaging parents in the education of their children (Section 3 of the Submission discussed the Reading Together® programme and Section 5 outlined the Reading Together® Project).


In January 2014, NZEI Te Riu Roa - NZ's largest education union - reported that (reference available here):

Reading Together® is an excellent programme in terms of sharing knowledge both from school to families and families to school. ... Programmes like Reading Together® and Learning Mileage have helped us see a marked difference in achievement for our priority learners since we have had their families engaged.

In early 2014, The Biddulph Group organised a donation of mini-libraries to families completing the Reading Together® workshops in some schools around New Zealand.

In Budget 2014, the New Zealand Government announced that extra "funding over the next four years will go to the Reading Together® programme so it can expand to include more than 140 decile 4 and 5 schools". An excerpt from the 2014 NZ Government Release (available here):

Research has identified Reading Together® as a low-cost, high-impact programme with strong evidence of effectiveness. For example, children have gained a full year in their reading level within 12 weeks of starting the programme.


In February 2015, an independent report on the 2014 Reading Together® Project stated that (reference available here):

Schools reported some dramatic improvements in reading achievement and the gains in reading achievement flowed on into other areas, particularly in writing. ... The most inspirational benefit of the Reading Together® Project is that it provides a basis for a lasting generational change in attitudes to reading.

In 2015, the New Zealand Book Council (now called Read NZ Te Pou Muramura) became involved, expanding their Writers in Schools programme to create The Otahuhu Writers in Schools Project (reference available here, further information available here):

... an innovative collaboration between five Otahuhu primary/intermediate schools, Reading Together® (a Ministry of Education supported reading initiative), the Otahuhu Community Library, the National Library Services to Schools programme, and the New Zealand Book Council's Writers in Schools programme.


Reading Together® GraduationBetween 2012 and 2016, approximately 30,000 families and more than 900 schools participated in the Reading Together® Project, in collaboration with the NZ Ministry of Education, community libraries and the National Library.

In 2016, Waimate Main School Principal Adam Rivett wrote (reference available here):

Our school has used Reading Together® for about 4 years now ... To be part of this programme has been such an honour. It is a brilliant programme and parents find it very, very helpful. At our school, our Reading National Standards are the highest of the three core subjects and I am convinced that our participation in Reading Together® has a large part to play in this.

In late 2016, Fairhaven School DP (and Reading Together® Workshop Leader) Vicki Hiini commented on their latest implementation of Reading Together® at Ngāti Moko Marae (reference available here):

The small amount of funding that is required to make these workshops happen is minimal in comparison to the social value that they provide. The feedback that we have had from whānau has been heartwarming, how, with support from these workshops, we are changing negative experiences from the past to a positive experience for the future.


In March 2017, the NZ Ministry of Education made the Reading Together® programme available to iwi, marae, Pasifika entities and other community-based groups. An earlier decile restriction (to schools of deciles 1-5) was eased to allow Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako to access Reading Together® and other clusters of schools to offer the programme to meet specialised needs – such as refugee and migrant groups.

In the Queen's Birthday Honours 2017, Jeanne Biddulph was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, in recognition of her services to literacy education.

In August 2017, the Education Review Office (ERO) made available a video titled Learning centred relationships: Reading Together® at Manurewa Central School, as part of their Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua video collection. An excerpt from the video - quoting Sandy Griffin, Reading Together® Workshop Leader and DP of Manurewa Central School:

Reading Together® is a hugely powerful programme. It's a doorway into building relationships with families and getting to know the children that you are working with ...

Also in August 2017, Jeanne Biddulph updated her Message regarding Reading Together® for the New Zealand Ministry of Education Briefing Meetings.

In 2017, a partnership was formed between Muaūpoko (the Muaūpoko iwi is tangata whenua of Taitoko in the Horowhenua region), the JR McKenzie Trust, Ministry of Education and Levin East Primary School to engage tamariki, whānau, iwi, kaumātua, teachers, and community leaders, as detailed in the NZ Education Gazette article Tūngia te Koingo and Reading Together® in Taitoko / Levin: A snowball of positives (note: video also on YouTube here and on Facebook here).


In January 2018, the NZ Ministry of Education Best Evidence Synthesis Programme made available Reading Together® Implementation Exemplars in the form of videos. These videos highlight critical success factors for those planning and supporting the effective implementation of Reading Together®, and are available here and locally here. An excerpt from the Ministry of Education announcement:

Reading Together® can build trust, support children by supporting parents, increase access to reading, build productive partnerships, and counter harm.

At a Lower Hutt fono in 2018, a Pacific adult said:

We need an intergenerational learning environment. Who is the learner? Not just the child - support parents and families to support their child.

In June 2018, the National Library extended their support for the Reading Together® programme.

In July 2018, Reading Together® and Early Reading Together® were established on Twitter: @RTandERT


During 2019, many blog posts were created to record feedback from various communities involved in Reading Together®. A selection of these blog posts:

At a Christchurch fono in 2019, a Samoa heritage parent said:

Reading Together® has been fully embraced and extremely valued in the community.

A NZ Ministry of Education report titled Ngā Kura o Aotearoa: New Zealand Schools (2019) summarised Reading Together® use in communities in the section Learners/ākonga developing reading skills.

In November 2019, the NZ Ministry of Education made available a "best evidence in action exemplar which explains the partnership approach taken between Fairhaven School and Te Iwi o Tapuika in the marae-based implementation of Reading Together® Te Pānui Ngātahi in Te Puke". An excerpt from Reading Together® Te Pānui Ngātahi at Ngāti Moko Marae: A School-Iwi Partnership implementation exemplar:

Expert developer of Reading Together® Jeanne Biddulph, highlighted the need for school-whānau partnership approaches to build trust for ongoing success. When well-implemented Reading Together® accelerates reading achievement, supports children's wellbeing and has enduring effects for positive and culturally responsive education.


Feedback from various communities throughout New Zealand involved in Reading Together® continued to accrue on Our Blog and Twitter, as well as New Zealand Citations (and International Citations). For example, in February 2020, Jacqueline Tanner (Middle Team Teacher) at Parkland School, Palmerston North commented in this blog post:

I love using your Reading Together® programme. I see a huge difference in how much children enjoy reading and a difference in parents and children's confidence.

In September 2020, a parent participating in Reading Together® workshops implemented by Failoa Famili Charitable Trust made the following comments:

I didn't care about reading until now, makes me happy to read and learn especially about my health programmes. Hats off to this idea.
One mother was in tears tonight by sharing her story about her kids by her refusal to help her children learn how to read. After the workshop tonight she left with something new to help her children and her family.

In October 2020, Vicki Hiini, Reading Together® Workshop Leader and Deputy Principal at Fairhaven School said:

Reading Together® is more than a programme, it is a lifelong gift that keeps on giving.

In December 2020, an article was published titled 'Fathers at Auckland Prison bond with their children as part of parenting programme' which discussed the Taonga mō ngā Tamariki (Treasures for our Children) programme, based around the Early Reading Together® and Reading Together® programmes. The article prompted a significant response online, with comments such as:

Totally excellent! Teaching these men how to be Dads is a form of teaching love. Such healing experiences for the men and the children. I'm just imagining the beautiful bonding and the feelings of love and positive connection. We need more of this. What a brilliant initiative...

Who would have thought... that there would be a Parenting Programme inside any prison...This is awesome.. It is the children that are impacted the most when a parent is in prison..They are the silent and forgotten statistic ❤

An excerpt from the Storytime Foundation Lockdown Care Packs Project 2020 (p.7):

Taonga mō ngā Tamariki is based on compelling evidence from a range of international studies conducted over many years that reading or literacy schemes involving prisoner-child contact can foster supportive family relationships and motivate prisoners towards a productive future.


Throughout our work over the decades, we have had a strong commitment to:

  • Social justice
  • Fairness
  • Equity
  • Opportunities for all

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed the importance of these commitments.

In March/April 2021, Failoa Famili Charitable Trust implemented Reading Together® at Mission Heights Junior College, Manukau. Comments included:

Reading is the key to learning and success.
Thank you for supporting this transformative programme.
Love this! This would be great in OZ with our PI community too.

In Budget 2021, the New Zealand Government announced an Expansion of Reading Together® Te Pānui Ngātahi Partnerships and Duffy Books in Homes:

This funding will improve literacy and wellbeing outcomes for over 73,000 children across New Zealand by giving 37,000 parents effective strategies to support their children as they learn to read and providing books for children in their homes.


Reading Together® Graduation

The Biddulph family acknowledges and values the contribution of dedicated school leaders, teachers and community librarians throughout New Zealand who have implemented the Reading Together® programme since the early 1980s. These educators and librarians have provided informed and effective support for tens of thousands of families/whānau, and they have continued to do so because - almost without exception - NZ parents/whānau have responded positively to the opportunity to participate in Reading Together®.

The support of the following people for Reading Together® is particularly appreciated:

  • Dr Sarah Alexander, Chief Executive of ChildForum
  • Jan Allott, AP of Glenview School, Hamilton
  • Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Chief Advisor, Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis [BES] Programme, NZ Ministry of Education
  • Lynette Bradnam, formerly of the NZ Ministry of Education
  • Jo Buchan, Senior Specialist Developing Readers: National Library
  • David Copeland, Engagement Strategist
  • John Cornish, former Principal of Fendalton Primary School, Christchurch
  • Lisa Deane, DP of Fairfield Primary School, Hamilton
  • Warwick Elley, Emeritus Professor of Education and formerly of the University of Canterbury
  • Catriona Ferguson, Director of Publishers Association of New Zealand and former Chief Executive of the New Zealand Book Council
  • Cathy Franich, former DP of St Joseph's School Otahuhu, Auckland
  • John Good, former NZ Ministry of Education National Project Manager for Reading Together®
  • Sandy Griffin, DP of Manurewa Central School, Auckland
  • Kay Hall, former Team Leader: Community Learning, Palmerston North Libraries
  • Vicki Hiini, DP of Fairhaven School, Te Puke
  • Liz Horgan MNZM, former Principal of St Joseph's School Otahuhu, Auckland
  • Paul Hunt, Principal of Fairhaven School, Te Puke
  • Elizabeth Jones, National Manager: Learning Futures and Development, National Library
  • Graeme Marshall, former Strategy Manager, NZ Ministry of Education
  • Adam Rivett, former Principal of Waimate Main School, South Canterbury
  • Carole Rout, formerly of the Department of Education and Christchurch Teachers College
  • Sir Pita Sharples, former Associate Minister of Education
  • Jeannie Skinner, National Library Adviser: Far North
  • Tatai Taikura-Mita, Toitoi Manawa leader at Fairhaven School, Te Puke
  • Dr Laurie Thew, former Principal of Manurewa Central School, Auckland
  • Dr Bryan Tuck, formerly of both the University of Canterbury and the University of Auckland
  • Marian Wards, former AP of St Joseph's School Otahuhu, Auckland

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