New idea to make books successful for young readers in Northland

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A new idea to offer more books to new Northland readers is proving to be a resounding success.

The Whangārei Hidden Books initiative is pretty much what it sounds – children’s books are hidden in places across town for budding bookworms to discover.

Thousands of stories have been collected over the past two years, all thanks to Heather Edmeades.

Heather Edmeades delivers books on playgrounds for young Northlanders to find and read.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake Persen

Edmeades started distributing the books about two years ago after seeing a friend in Taranaki do the same.

She estimates that she hid around 2,000 books around this time – picture books and chapter books – some from local authors, others from around Aotearoa and classic international readings.

The books are picked up from thrift stores, and Heather checks to make sure they’re in good condition (without too many doodles), before wrapping them in resealable plastic bags with a note.

It reads: “Free to a good home – congratulations on finding me.” Please read and hide. Tell us on the Whangārei Hidden Books page on Facebook where you found it or where you have hidden books. Good reading!’

On Wednesday, she was storing around 15 books in slides, swings and seats in a Whangārei playground.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake Persen

Sneaking between the equipment, she said she tries to be unobtrusive in hiding it so the kids have a nice surprise when they find it.

The bright and colorful books – some Dr Seuss and Spike Milligan alongside Northland authors – have been snapped up by young readers.

Eight-year-old Alexis was at the park with her grandmother Donna Housham when they discovered “Green Eggs and Ham”.

Donna with her grandchildren who found something to read in a Whangārei playground.

Donna with her grandchildren who found something to read in a Whangārei playground.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake Persen

Donna said it was a classic that she planned to read to the grandchildren as soon as possible.

“This book is a legend.”

Donna noted that books don’t come cheap and good page turners can be hard to find, so she praised the project.

“It’s a good thing and it gives children the opportunity to read books, to read different books, not the same books over and over again.”

Heather Edmeades said she has had great reviews of the books over the years – including a woman who said the book she discovered was the first her baby has ever had.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.

A book in a Whangārei playground for a young Northland reader to find.
Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake Persen

She has since been contacted by another “Hidden Books” organizer in Kāpiti, who set up the program there.

“I like to think that this hopefully promotes reading in the community a bit. And the love of books.”

For all those who wish to be inspired by Heather’s book, do not hesitate to consult the Whangārei’s Hidden Books The Facebook page.


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