John McKenzie spent 12 years as a teacher at the upper primary and intermediate levels. It was here that he came to recognise the value of children’s books in the classroom.
Rather than becoming a principal, and thus an administrator, John became interested in curriculum development and took a position at Palmerston North College of Education and then Christchurch College of Education. Here he taught drama, children’s literature and language curriculum.
John was the coordinator of the National Certificate and Diploma of Children's Literature courses and has been responsible for its development and certification.
In addition to his work at the Centre for Children’s Literature John coordinates and writes reviews of New Zealand materials for Reading Time
, the journal of the Australian Children’s Book Council. He was a foundation member of the Australian Children’s Literature Association for Research and hosted its fifth biennial conference in Christchurch, the first time it had been held outside Australia. John is also involved with Te Tai Tamariki Trust.
A speech by Margaret Mahy
provided the motivation to set up the Diploma of Children’s Literature when she said it was about time there was provision for academic study of children’s books in New Zealand. John acknowledges the support of many people over the years in developing the Certificate and Diploma and says he has a great team of people behind him who write the courses. He pays particular tribute to Doreen Darnell’s huge depth of research and says that she complements his skills and makes up for any gaps in his knowledge.
John himself has written courses on Performance, Literature across the Curriculum, Use of the Library, and is currently writing one on Early Childhood. He emphasises that the Diploma course needs to be real to people even though it is an academic programme and tries for a blend of academic and practical content. He believes that it is essential to have children’s literature available to everyone and that courses available should empower parents as well as education professionals.
John is currently a principal lecturer at the School of Literacies and Arts in Education at the College of Education, University of Canterbury.
Storylines Betty Gilderdale Award