Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust of New Zealand | Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki o Aotearoa

Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day – From A First-Time Attendee

This month we invited a first-time attendee to the Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day to write about her experience of the event.

“The 2024 Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day was held at the National Library last Sunday 7 April. This time, the venue held a special significance for the 25th recipient of the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal,  presented to Elizabeth Jones, Director of Literacy and Learning, at the National Library.

“The audience raised their hands in applause as she walked towards the lectern to receive her award. Despite Elizabeth Jones remarking on her lack of confidence in writing a lecture compared to the previous years of awardees (authors, illustrators and scholars) her authenticity and humour won over the audience. It was a wonderful start to the event and I could feel the atmosphere in the room settling down into a warm and comforting silence.

Elizabeth emphasised the crucial role librarians play, especially when it comes to children’s literature. The roles that librarians play is truly irreplaceable. She also pointed out the unique challenges faced by librarians in the recent decades, and how they worked hard to find solutions to these challenges. For example, the digitisation of books and book organisation.

Furthermore, she passionately spoke about the impact a good library has on a school and for children. Elizabeth noted how being given access and support to reading for children has benefits such as closing the gap between economic inequalities, higher grades, better mental health, and exploration of topics or scenarios in life (to name a few).

If you are interested in the lecture of previous Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal awardees, lectures can be found on the Storylines Trust website.

After the lecture came the exciting book launch of the 2023 winner of the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award, Koro’s Star by Claire Aramakutu. It was presented by Rob Southam from Scholastic and the audience was treated to an excerpt read aloud which left members of the audience curious about the new book and eager to support the lovely author. It was heartwarming to witness the author’s dedications to her family, as her husband and child also attended the event to support her.

The audience then went upstairs for afternoon tea. There was also an exciting book raffle held at the event and the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookstore present at the venue promoting books from previous winning authors and illustrators. The atmosphere upstairs was so pleasant and welcoming, friends old and new were chatting happily over some tea and finger food. Everyone was united by their common passion for books, literature and childhood education.

The manuscript and illustration awards were then announced, starting with the shortlisted authors/illustrators and then the winner of the award. All who made it to the shortlist were presented with a certificate commemorating their efforts and a gift. Shortlisters smiled shoulder to shoulder with glee as they took pictures beside their patrons and sponsors of the awards. An interesting thing to note was how the sponsors for this year’s Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day remarked that the quality of submissions were especially high this time. It was hard to think that only three or four decades ago, multiple awards and events like this barely existed. Seeing younger people being shortlisted alongside previous generations filled me with hope. It is a reminder of how the previous generation’s love and passion for literature was successfully passed down to us. This was my first time attending a Storylines Margaret Mahy Awards Day, and after this experience, I can definitely see myself attending many more in the future.

Reflecting back on what I felt as part of the audience, I realised I was one of the children that organisations such as the Storylines Trust, SLANZA, National Library (to name a few) have worked hard to provide access to reading. As Elizabeth Jones said during her lecture, being given access to children’s literature is so, so important during our developmental years. For example, being read aloud to has benefits, as it teaches children vocabulary and encourages the brain to perform mental processes to understand and interpret the words being spoken. It benefits many facets of our life. Personally, for me, I have books to thank for allowing me to be more imaginative, more open, and for satisfying my curiosity.

There is so much unnoticed work from authors, illustrators, librarians, organisers, scholars, teachers, and volunteers. We are very, very fortunate to have many passionate people from all around Aotearoa New Zealand that care for children’s literature.

As said by the current Te Awhi Rito, Alan Dingley “All it takes is one good book to change someone’s life.” Without the tireless years of advocating for better access and support to children’s literature, I would never have found that book from my Primary School library.

Alyx Boliver
Guest Contributor, April 2024