Chloe Wright, CEO and co-founder of the Wright Family Foundation has spent the past 26 years working to make a difference in the lives of young children through early childhood education. She is the mother of five children, and shares that she savoured this experience and the knowledge she gained from this time. Chloe is now equally enjoying and learning from her new experience as grandmother to ten grandchildren.
Since 2016, the Wright Family Foundation has sponsored two categories in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults - the Wright Family Foundation Te Kuru Pounamu Award and the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction. Supporting literacy is one of the foundation’s key goals, and something Chloe finds incredibly important..
Thank you so much for taking the time Chloe to be interviewed for this edition of Library Life!
My first question is why did you get involved in early childhood learning, development and life?
We first got involved in early childhood education (ECE) when returning home after a seven-year absence and found what, to us, were great social changes. We considered politics as a way to create positive outcomes, but a serendipitous meeting led us to believe we could make the most difference by attending to the children in our country, by affording them the best outcomes through peer social interactions led by qualified ECE teachers.
I could not name a greatest achievement but what I get most joy from are the literacy, music, and arts. Through our NZ Spelling Bee, Kids Lit Foundation, Summer Learning Journey, Virtuoso Strings, Arohanui Strings, and other programs we see children who perhaps do not have the ‘freedom’ to emote, thrive and become confident, competent beings. It does not get better than this.
Why is it important to you and the foundation to be involved with the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults?
The NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults inspires not only authors and illustrators but those who read, observe the power of writing, and become inspired in their own time to take those skills forward either for their benefit or the wider audience.
In your opinion, how do you think librarians and libraries can get more involved in early childhood life?
Librarians may take more time to read current books for children, thereby recommending, in a knowledgeable way, books for children. They might hold ‘reading circles’ for parents and pre-schoolers. Encourage early childhood teachers to bring the children on library trips.
What do you think libraries could be doing to more effectively in support reading for pleasure?
Create more comfortable spaces. Sofas, armchairs, coffee, or small café where people can quietly share their love of reading and books, and connect. Te Aka Mauri in Rotorua is an excellent example of a community space for the enjoyment of reading.
Why do you believe it is important for children to have a positive relationship with reading at an early age?
First comes reading with a parent followed by reading alongside a parent or family group. Sharing interpretations of stories and fostering imagination through eyes that see the world in possibilities. Imagination builds creativity.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of children literature and books?
My hopes for children’s literature are that myths and fairy tales, will continue to link the past to the present and create a strong moral compass. The strength of the writer is to inspire and challenge the child to view the world, its challenges, and possibilities, creating an individual call to action.
Do you have any inspiring words to share with the young people of New Zealand?
“The bird in the tree is never afraid of the branch breaking. She has more faith in her own wings, than in the branch”- Author unknown
Why do you think libraries, and information organizations (archives, museums, galleries) important to a country?
They bring people together in a collective space enabling the sharing of information, beauty, order, and importantly, close human connection.
What did it mean to you to be recognised with the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s Honours 2021?
It meant that the work we have been able to do was recognised as valuable to our country. It created a greater sense of responsibility to those we serve, a shared honour with those who support this work.
What are some of your favourite authors and books?
- Oscar Wilde
- Roald Dahl
- James Michener
- Paulo Coelho
- Markus Zusak
Do you have a favourite library you like to visit now?
Te Aka Mauri in Rotorua.
Did libraries support your development as a young reader – if so, what do you remember?
Yes, they did. We had lots of great books at home, but I also loved to walk the aisles of the local library, reading titles, wondering at the order, and taking books out. I was an avid reader who developed through stories a vivid imagination and my relentless optimism.
What is one of your favourite places in New Zealand?
Any forest, the ocean, places where nature reigns supreme.