Reading warrior promotes literacy among Pasifika

posted: 8:00 am - 10th August 2018
David Riley

Fortunate to have been brought up with books and reading, Kiwi writer and teacher David Riley (pictured) realises many young New Zealanders have not had the same learning opportunities for various reasons.

Of Kiwi-Irish-Scottish descent, David grew up surrounded by Pasifika and Māori peoples, who have inspired him to go on to study Social Anthropology, Pacific History and Māori Studies at the University of Auckland. 

Following university, David became a teacher and has spent time teaching at South Auckland‘s Tangaroa College, living in Manukau with his Samoan wife Lauano Sulufaleese Deborah Riley and their two daughters. 

Drawing on his experience in the education field, and his knowledge of Pasifika and Māori issues, David was motivated to produce books and teaching materials for young people and educators.

The books about Māori and Pacific role models and Pacific legends focus on creating reading material to engage and inspire young people.   

His publishing house Reading Warrior aims to help young people with literacy, help them to learn more about their cultures and to spur them on with stories of positive role models and achievers.

“I’m inspired by Māori and Pasifika young people, and being a teacher, I want to do what I can to help them become successful people,” David says. 

“A way I like doing that is through reading - I’ve seen lots of picture biographies about Kiwi and American heroes and role models and I know those books encourage young people and show them examples of people who have overcome challenges in life to become successful.” 

He would like to see Māori and Pasifika young people able to read about heroes from their cultures like that too, and as a result has produced books about likes of Kiwi-Tongan basketballer Steven Adams; and various famous Pasifika rugby league and rugby union players. 

David’s books aim to help everyone know stories from Pasifika people, cultures and history have just as much worth as stories from other cultures, he says.

“They also help keep knowledge of the past alive; of people like Fanene Peter Maivia, and what they did which laid a foundation for people who came after him, including his own grandson, The Rock. 

“I hope the books will get children thinking about their ancestors and things they did to prepare a foundation for them.” 

The power a book has to bring a family together, for a child to read it with their dad or grandmother, and connect with someone who knows the language and the stories it is about, is something David truly appreciates books – and what parents and teachers are appreciating about David’s books. 

 “It is hoped the books provide reading material for teachers and parents that their children can engage with and enjoy. 

“Hopefully it will show them reading can be fun and for some it might even become a lifelong habit.” 

He says that maybe the books will inspire young people by filling them with stories of positive people from their own cultures doing amazing things, world-class level things.   

“By reading these stories young people can see and visualise pathways for themselves … I also hope more Pacific young people will write books.”

David is also an advocate for the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Pacific Language Weeks, and has previously produced relevant books for each week, for example, Samoan Heroes for Samoan Language Week. 

When David is not writing or teaching, he is enthusiastically promoting literacy among young people, visiting schools, libraries and galleries, and any other places or events to encourage children, young people and educators to read more. 

Read more about David Riley and the books he has written HERE.