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Reading Together® programme

Reading Together® is a gold standard, research-based workshop programme which helps parents/whānau to provide effective support for their children's reading (and thereby also supports teachers in their classroom programmes).

The programme has been shown to raise children's reading achievement in a significant and sustained manner, and to improve relationships between children and parents, and between parents and teachers (the original research was a randomised, controlled trial - the gold standard) [1, 2]. It has been successfully implemented by teachers in New Zealand since its development in 1982 by Jeanne Biddulph MNZM, and teachers find that the programme is practical and manageable [3, 4].

Reading Together® is supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Education and is mentioned in the New Zealand Curriculum. The Ministry of Education reports that "Reading Together® can build trust, support children by supporting parents, increase access to reading, build productive partnerships, and counter harm." [5]

Order Resources

Reading Together® programme
Former Minister of Education Jan Tinetti: "The investment the Government has made into evidence-based and community-led projects is delivering positive results evidenced in the latest evaluation from the Reading Together® programme, that supports parents and whānau to encourage strong literacy at home. An example in the Samoan community, evaluation showed a positive change in reading habits for families, with almost 90 percent of parents feeling more confident in helping their children learn to read." [6]
[Former] Associate Education Minister Dr Pita Sharples credits the programme's whānau focus for its success. "There are other programmes out there but the thing about this one is that the families are involved." [7]  "[Reading Together®] is receiving absolutely glowing feedback." [8]
Warwick Elley, Emeritus Professor of Education: "I was working closely with Jeanne Biddulph in Christchurch [in the early 1980s] when she undertook her thesis on Reading Together®, and was impressed with its impact in that study. The notion of helping parents to help their own children with a series of workshops was a delightfully new approach to a long-standing problem, but many were sceptical about whether parents would come, whether they would stay the course and whether they would have the patience to implement the suggestions made. Thankfully the critics were proved unduly pessimistic, and the continuing success of the programme, during the period when the Biddulphs were funding it themselves and after [Sir] Pita Sharples saw its potential, and gave it the thumbs up for Government funding, was a well-justified reward for Jeanne's insight and admirable efforts." [9]
Dr Laurie Thew, former Principal of Manurewa Central School: The Reading Together® programme is "the closest thing to a silver bullet we've ever seen" [6]. "We've found it outstanding. It not only helps with reading, but this intervention also improves the rest of a child's schooling. The relationships between homes and school improve, and parents certainly appreciate the support." [10]
Liz Horgan MNZM, former Principal of St Joseph's School Otahuhu: "We have found Reading Together® to be the most effective home/school programme we have run. ... It is truly a wonderful programme to be involved in and the feedback we have received from parents is heart-warming, humbling and always extremely positive." [11]
New Zealand Government Release: "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." [12]

The Reading Together® Project

The Reading Together® Project is a collaboration between the NZ Ministry of Education, schools, community libraries and the National Library.

Independent reports on the Reading Together® Project:

"The Reading Together® programme has had a profound effect, not just in improving reading levels for a particular child but in involving entire whānau in implementing better ways of relating to their tamariki and facilitating their learning. ... Such changes are remarkable for a four workshop programme." [13]
SOURCE: Report PDF is available here.
"... the 2013 Reading Together® Project, through supporting schools to implement the Reading Together® programme, continues to make a real difference in attitudes toward reading and consequently in reading achievement. It is instrumental in helping to break the negative cycle of disengagement with reading that exists in many whānau. ... Schools reported some dramatic improvements in reading achievement." [14]
SOURCE: Report PDF is available here.
"This report examines the feedback provided by caregivers and teachers on changes in achievement and engagement for 479 students whose caregivers participated in the Reading Together® workshops. ... 97% of the responses attributed gains in either achievement or engagement with reading to caregiver participation in the Reading Together® workshops." [15]
SOURCE: Analysis PDF is 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." [16]
SOURCE: Report PDF is available here.
Sir Pita Sharples and families who have participated in Reading Together® at Manurewa Central School.

Sir Pita Sharples and families who have participated in Reading Together® at Manurewa Central School. Photo used with permission from Dr Laurie Thew and Piera Tombolato.

Reading Together®

Key Points

Reading Together® Logo

Reading Together®:

  • enables parents/whānau to learn sound and specific ways of helping with reading at home
  • is a programme comprising 4 workshops over 7 weeks, with each workshop lasting 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • focuses on an area of learning (i.e. reading) that all parents recognise as being important
  • is practical, user friendly and manageable for teachers, librarians, parents/whānau and children
  • enables teachers, parents/whānau and librarians to work together in informed and collaborative ways
  • develops more positive relationships between children, parents/whānau, teachers and community librarians
  • enables teachers, parents and librarians to support children's reading more effectively than any of them can achieve if they are working independently of each other
  • is effective when it is implemented as described in the fully-scripted Workshop Leader's Handbook
  • has a sound theoretical and research basis.

Reading Together® provides effective support for all children & their parents/whānau i.e.

  • children who are struggling with reading, or reluctant to read, or reading competently
  • children from junior primary to junior secondary school levels
  • children and parents from diverse language/literacy, cultural, educational and socio-economic backgrounds

Primary purpose of Reading Together®:

  • To help all children to become keen, capable readers who have the range of language and literacy competencies they need to function confidently and effectively within their communities and wider society.
Inquiry into engaging parents in the education of their children

Best Practice

The Reading Together® programme is a best practice example of an approach that enables parents and communities to support their children's learning.

For further information (including effective strategies for engaging parents, families, whānau, aiga, and communities in formal education), please see Jeanne Biddulph's Submission on the Parliamentary Inquiry into engaging parents in the education of their children.

Reading for pleasure

"Reading for pleasure is one of the most important indicators for the future success of a child, improving literacy, learning, health and wellbeing and social outcomes."
SOURCE: Quote from Reading for pleasure.

History of Reading Together®

A history of Reading Together® in New Zealand is available here, and includes acknowledgements of some of the dedicated educators and librarians who have implemented and/or supported the Reading Together® programme since the early 1980s, thereby providing informed and effective support for tens of thousands of families/whānau. Learn More


  1. Biddulph, J. (1983). A group programme to train parents of children with reading difficulties to tutor their children at home. MA Research Report. University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
  2. Biddulph, J & Tuck, B. (1983). Assisting parents to help their children with reading at home. Paper presented to the New Zealand Association for Research in Education. Wellington.
  3. Biddulph, J. (1993, May). Teacher-parent partnership to support children's reading development. Paper presented to the NZ Reading Association Annual Conference, Christchurch.
  4. Biddulph, J. & Allott, J. (2006). Reading Together: A programme  which enables parents to help their children with reading at home - Overview. Reading Forum NZ, Vol 21, No 3, 20-27.
  5. New Zealand Ministry of Education Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme What's New (January 2018).
  6. 1 September 2022 New Zealand Parliament Hansard (Debates) - Volume 762.
  7. Henry, D. (2012). Results taken as read. Manukau Courier, 28 June 2012.
  8. 30 January 2013 Debate on Prime Minister's Statement. Quoting Sir Pita Sharples, who said about Reading Together®: "This 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."
  9. Elley, Warwick (2016) Letters to the Editor of Education Aotearoa, April 2016. NOTE: Warwick Elley has an outstanding national and international reputation for his scholarship on educational improvement in literacy. He also has experience in leading international surveys of school achievement for the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement).
  10. Ewart, J. (2012). No silver bullets in education - but Reading Together is close! Booksellers New Zealand: Book News, 16 August 2012.
  11. Horgan, L. (2012). Reading Together programme. Good News & The News (Broadsheet of Good Practice in Integrated Schools), Vol 32.
  12. New Zealand Government Release (15 May 2014) Literacy programme to benefit more communities.
  13. Madden, F. & Madden, R. (2013) Reading Together Project 2012 - Analysis of feedback and of workshop attendance. Independent report commissioned by the NZ Ministry of Education and completed in February 2013. The authors report that: "Feedback from schools and participants is uniformly enthusiastic and records dramatic improvement in reading levels and the enthusiasm of the learner for reading." [p.24]
  14. Madden, F. & Madden, R. (2014) Report on Feedback from the Reading Together Workshops run by the Reading Together Project schools in 2013. Independent report commissioned by the NZ Ministry of Education and completed in February 2014.
  15. Madden, F. & Madden, R. (2015) Reading Together Project 2014 - Analysis of feedback on changes in student achievement and engagement. Independent analysis commissioned by the NZ Ministry of Education and completed in February 2015.
  16. Madden, F. & Madden, R. (2015) Report on Feedback from the Reading Together Workshops run by Reading Together Project schools in 2014. Independent report commissioned by the NZ Ministry of Education and completed in February 2015.