Te Ataakura on creating books for young te reo learners


Dionne Christian spoke with Te Ataakura Pewhairangi about her second board book, offered as both a bilingual and te reo edition, Ko wai kei te papa tākaro? Who is at the playground?. It follows on from her first publication, Kei te aha ngā kararehe? What are the animals doing?.

‘The appearance of the Matariki star cluster signifies a time of transition, remembrance and reflection; author and te reo champion Te Ataakura Pewhairangi certainly has a productive 12 months to look back on.

Te Ataakura (Ngāti Porou) has released two books in the last year, Kei te aha ngā kararehe? What are the animals doing? and Ko wai kei te papa tākaro? Who is at the playground? adding to the growing number of high-quality reo and bilingual books for children and families.

The mother-of-three, scholar, educator and television presenter understands the role quality books play in development from first-hand experience as a student, parent and teacher. Raised in a te reo Māori household, where her home language was — is — te reo, and educated in kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa Māori and wharekura, Te Ataakura didn’t start learning English until she was 13. 

 She recalls her parents, both educators, would translate pukapuka (books) and other resources into te reo using multiple sticky notes.  Sometimes these were pasted over English text; other times, at the side of the pages so the English text was still visible.  Te Ataakura says Spot, eventually translated into and published in te reo, was one of her favourites.Her mother would also translate popular films into te reo as she and her three brothers watched.  That te reo Māori adaptations of some of Disney’s most beloved films — Moana, The Lion King (out this month) and Frozen – are being made is something that makes Te Ataakura smile.  It provides extra chances for Aotearoa’s children to see — hear – internationally famous characters normalising te reo.

It's something that Te Ataakura has contributed to, voicing the character of Dora the Explorer when the smash hit show was translated into te reo.  She was just 16 at the time and it kickstarted a media career which has seen her MC regional and national events such as the secondary schools kapa haka competition, Hauora Unleashed and Manu Kōrero national speech competition.

“There’s always a feeling that we can do more so I am just doing my part to create more.”’

Read the full interview here.​​