Reading and writing: National Standards and the school library

Competence in reading and writing underpins students’ engagement with all areas of the New Zealand Curriculum. It also enables students to develop the key competencies needed to achieve National Standards and subsequently NCEA.

School library staff need to be aware of Ministry of Education documents so they can fully engage with teachers to support reading and writing programmes.


Ministry of Education documents
The role of the school library
Library supporting access to resources
And in secondary schools

Ministry of Education documents

The New Zealand Curriculum is the baseline document and outlines the vision, values, key competencies and learning areas for New Zealand students.

The New Zealand Curriculum Reading and Writing Standards for years 1 – 8

The New Zealand Curriculum Reading and Writing Standards for years 1 – 8 sets out six dimensions of effective literacy practice based on New Zealand and international research, which underpin the reading and writing literacy progressions and standards.

  1. Expectations
  2. Knowledge of literacy learning
  3. Knowledge of the learner
  4. Partnerships
  5. Engaging learners with texts
  6. Instructional strategies

The Literacy Learning Progressions

The Literacy Learning Progressions describe the specific knowledge, skills and attitudes students need to meet curriculum outcomes from year 1 to year 10. This document uses the colour wheel from the Ready to Read Series to describe levels. There is huge potential for library staff to promote appropriate library books to broaden the range of reading and writing experiences for students.

The New Zealand Curriculum Reading and Writing Standards for years 1 – 8

The New Zealand Curriculum Reading and Writing Standards for years 1 – 8 are based on the effective practice principles and literacy progressions. They provide nationally consistent indicators to describe student achievement for the end of each year of schooling. They also provide a measure for teachers reporting student progress to parents and describing a student’s learning goals.

As students progress through schooling, they are expected to develop independence in reading and writing texts of increasing complexity.

The role of the school library

A key role of the school library is to provide relevant resources at appropriate levels to support teaching and learning programmes. Specifically, the library provides books and on-line resources for reading, research, and writing examples across a wide range of genre, styles and formats. This ensures students have the resources to develop their reading and writing skills in meaningful contexts across all learning areas of the curriculum.

Library staff have traditionally been well aware of curriculum topics and associated learning outcomes. With the increasing pedagogical role of the library,  staff need to be aware of effective literacy practice, learning progressions and national standards taking them into account when developing their collection and services. This knowledge increases the likelihood that the library and its services will become an integral part of learning and teaching programmes within the school.

For example, by the end of year 4

“students have a strong sense of what they like to read as well as what they are able to read, and they know where to locate such materials”

This statement (from the Literacy Learning Progressions) implies significant exposure to a wide range of different reading formats and genres in the previous four years. It is most likely that the school library is the main access point for this variety of reading material (beyond instructional readers). It also implies a significant teaching programme to develop students’ library skills.

Library supporting access to resources

As well as providing resources, a critical role of the library is to ensure teachers and students have easy access to those resources.

  • How are they shelved?
  • How are they labelled?
  • How are they identified in the library catalogue?

Picture books

The picture book collection is a treasure trove of text and graphic combinations ranging in complexity from the very basic to the highly sophisticated. Not all picture books are written for very young children.

Pictures can:

  • tell the story alone (wordless picture books)
  • illustrate the story
  • add to the story
  • tell a different story
  • relate to other texts or other contexts (inferential connections)

Picture books at all levels also help students develop their visual language skills.

Wordless picture books are particularly useful for developing oral and written language skills. Library users need guidance to find wordless and sophisticated picture books in the library, either through shelving, labelling or through catalogue records.

Read more about picture books

Read more about sophisticated picture books

Graphic novels

Graphic novels are ideal to support more complex reading and are very popular with students. Graphic novels enable readers to experience story using a combination of succinct text, compelling artwork, and innovative design and layout.


All quotes from the Literacy Learning Progressions:

By the end of year 4:

“read for sustained periods and sustain meaning over longer texts over time”

By the end of Year 6:

“regularly read for sustained periods and sustain meaning over many days in longer texts (such as novels) and across a variety of texts on the same topic.”

By the end of year 8:

“ interpret abstract ideas, complex plots and sophisticated themes”

By the end of year 10:

“texts include sophisticated themes, complex plots and relationships, and unfamiliar settings”

Appropriately chosen subject headings for the fiction collection enable students to find reading material by theme. Some schools use genre labels to help students locate fiction genre on the shelves.

Separating out sections of fiction based on level allows students to access books appropriate to their age group and reading level. For example:

  • Young fiction or sometimes called 'Quick reads' are often shelved separately.
  • Senior fiction can be in separate shelving or identified using different labels.

Read more about young fiction

Non fiction

After three years at school:

“Look for information in visual features such as text boxes in non-fiction texts”

By the end of year 6:

“Interpret illustrations, photographs, text boxes, diagrams, maps, charts and graphs”

By the end of year 8:

“identify and resolve issues from competing information in texts”

There are significant implications for collection development within the above statements. The first is level.

A non-fiction topic is often highly motivating for students. This desire to 'find out' helps them rise to reading and comprehension challenges that might otherwise be blockages. Therefore the library needs to consider how the non fiction collection caters for junior as well as senior students. Not just in having appropriate age level books, but in how they are presented.

Read more about non-fiction


By the end of year 8:

“use appropriate skills and technologies to locate and use a range of texts for specific purposes”

“They confidently use ICT… access and provide information and to communicate with others” Using languages, symbols and texts. Key competencies. New Zealand Curriculum (2007)

Many students today prefer to read on-line rather than on paper format. A modern school library needs to consider adding e-books into their collection. These can be integrated into the library catalogue and made available for downloading on a specialised e-reader or onto a laptop or desktop computer.

Read more about e-books

And in secondary schools

“In years 9 and 10 students are required to read continuous and non-continuous texts in electronic and print media, for example, reference materials (including primary source material) ; digital materials with hypertext; printed novels, poetry, plays and textbooks; historical documents; manuals and procedural texts; mathematics problems; and newspapers and magazines

The role of the secondary school library in provision of and access to these texts is absolutely critical. The challenge is providing access to selected digital resources alongside traditional print material so that by the end of year 10 students can“confidently select texts according to their reading purpose” and they can“locate, analyse, evaluate, and synthesise information and ideas.”


  • Krashen, S. The power of reading: insights from the research. 2nd ed. Libraries Unlimited, 2004
  • Learning Media for the Ministry of Education. The literacy learning progressions: meeting the reading and writing demands of the curriculum. 2010
  • Learning Media for the Ministry of Education. New Zealand curriculum. 2007
  • Learning Media for the Ministry of Education. Reading and writing standards for years 1- 8. 2009