Alison Sutton - Winner 2015

Oral language skills are an important part of learning, and yet research has shown that roughly a third of young people lack the necessary language skills needed to make a great start on reading.

COMET Auckland and Learning Auckland are sponsoring Talking Matters, a collaboration of representatives from more than 30 organisations in teacher education, health, early learning, family services, child development researchers, parenting programmes, family literacy and government.

Talking Matters is raising awareness of the importance of early oral language and will explore ways to encourage and upskill families and educators to provide the richest oral language environment possible.

Two forums have explored the importance of early oral language and school readiness and considered strategies that are effective in growing the communication confidence of children in their first few years. Already some of the participating organisations have made small changes to their practice as a result of the information shared.

Talking Matters is drawing on insights from Alison Sutton’s Winston Churchill Fellowship early in 2015 when she looked at city-wide literacy initiatives. Enhancing oral language in families and in early learning and family services emerged as a key strand of action in the cities Alison visited in England and the USA. Alison has been active in the media, advocating for more attention and action on children’s oracy. We are encouraging adults to talk, sing, read and tell stories to their kids as much as they can – simple, free and easy strategies that make a big difference.

NEXT STEPS: Talking Matters has been in a scoping phase this year. More network meetings are planned for 2015, a work programme is being developed and we are applying for funding to support this collaboration.

If you’d like more information on Talking Matters, please contact Alison Sutton, COMET Auckland’s Manager, Literacy, at


Let’s celebrate International Literacy Day

Celebrate International Literacy Day
Celebrate International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day is on September 8th this year, and COMET Auckland wants to encourage Aucklanders to get involved with some fun reading activities with your family, workplace and community.

Our city has a literacy challenge – 410,000 adults with low literacy and 470,000 with low numeracy.   Low literacy, English language and numeracy limit individuals and families from participation in work, community and active citizenship.  Reading underpins literacy and learning, so reading matters to all of us. Māori and Pasifika boys and men are the least likely to be keen, skilled readers.

Let’s use September 8, International Literacy Day to celebrate reading and highlight the benefits that come from reading. Be creative with work mates, family and your community about Random Acts of Reading.

Here are some ideas you can use to celebrate International Literacy Day.

  • Hold a book-swap
  • Put an item about the importance of reading and reading success stories in your staff newsletter
  • Turn off the TV and read aloud with your kids
  • Set up a whānau ‘speed read’ challenge – who can read the most books over  Sept 7-8
  • Set up a reading flash-mob on the footpath outside the office or in a local park
  • Collect books from people you know and donate them to a prison library, a women’s refuge or a rest home.
  • Get a local sports team to read something interesting after the match or in training
  • Have a special breakfast for dads and sons, where you talk about the value of books men and adults
  • Start a conversation with your local community house,  marae, local adult literacy scheme, English language provider  or school about supporting learners and reading  with them
  • Have a read-aloud at the office; people share a paragraph from a book or poem they love.
  • Ask the men on your staff to read with or to a boy – and photograph it, so we can create a digital story about men and boys enjoying reading.
  • Set up a game of Street Scrabble near you.

September 8th is a Sunday but it sits at the end of Adult Learners Week, so take action on reading any day that week.

Let the COMET Auckland team know what you intend to do and we will record it and link with the ACE Aotearoa ‘Random Acts of Reading Campaign’.

Happy reading!