Joy Cowley engages in story with the faculty

27 June 2017

Joy Cowley listens to postgraduate students share stories about their experiences of engaging in research about children and storytelling.
Joy Cowley listens to postgraduate students share stories about their experiences of engaging in research about children and storytelling.

Last week, the Faculty of Education and Social Work were visited by Joy Cowley, one of New Zealand’s most notable children’s book writers.

Joy met with postgraduate students researching in the field of early childhood education and storytelling before delivering a public lecture titled, finding truth in story, hosted by the faculty.

Joy’s meeting with faculty postgraduate students planning or engaged in research about children and storytelling aimed at creating a space to share stories about childhood, the process of storytelling and to discuss any research findings so far.

Joanna Williamson, a student attending the postgraduate meet-up says she attended hoping to gain some insight into the thinking that goes into Joy’s writing process in creating a good story for children - one that supports their thinking about ideas, their language, and their learning to read. “It is her more holistic approaches to story that particularly interests me,” says Joanna.

Joanna’s research looks into the use of storybooks in childhood settings. “I have been involved in English teaching and language teaching for a long time so books, stories, and literacy have always been areas of interest for me. When I moved into early childhood teaching and lecturing my ongoing interests in these areas continued to influence my thinking about how young children learn,” Joanna says.

Joanna became familiar with Joy’s stories when she had her own children and began reading aloud to them. “I enjoy reading her stories because they are thoughtfully constructed and engaging for the listener and the reader. There is always a lot to talk about in the text and the illustrations,” says Joanna.

 

Joy Cowley with postgraduate students at the Faculty of Education and Social Work.
Joy Cowley with postgraduate students at the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

Viviana Becker, a postgraduate student whose research focuses on early childhood and creative experience shared her experiences of going into kindergartens, with Joy and the group. She discussed how through the process of simply being “present” and “open” with the children it created the potential for the children to share a fragment of themselves, of their story, which led to the possibility of a meaningful connection.

Viviana shared an anecdote from her time in one specific kindergarten. One day, Viviana asked a child who she’d never talked to before if she could sit next to them to while she ate her lunch. Without saying anything further to the child, the child turned to Viviana and told her she had a (imaginary) pink caterpillar on her back. The child then asked Viviana if she wanted to hold the caterpillar. It was through simply being present with the child that the child decided to share a fragment of themselves with Viviana, opening up a space for connection.

 

Joy Cowley Biography

Joy is most known for her children’s fiction and has written over a one thousand early-reading books. She has numerous awards and honours to her name and in 2010 received the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction. She also has an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Massey University for her work with early reading.

Joy’s passion for writing children’s fiction was spurred by wanting to inspire a joy for reading in her son who was struggling with reading. Joy wrote stories for him which eventually made their way into schools. She is a self-proclaimed advocate for “the beginner reader, the slow reader [and] the reader who has English as a second language.”