Barbara Moore, who passed away in September, had a passion for life and education, a genuine commitment for social justice, and a willingness to put children at the centre of learning. She had a singular ability to work with people–to make each person feel special, to honour the work of people before her that contributed to her work, to instil a great sense of confidence in people, and to create a strong sense of cooperation rather than competition. Barbara became a raging virago when confronted with political and education injustices–and seeing this gentle woman "morph" was a sight to behold!
When I was asked to join the International Development in Oceania Committee Barbara Moore was an existing member, and she was very quickly promoted to chairperson. At that stage Barbara was in charge of the Reading Centre at the Institute of Education at the University of the South Pacific, in Fiji. She spearheaded the development of the South Pacific Literacy Education Project which was initially a joint venue between the Reading Associations of New Zealand and Australia, and then incorporated into the Oceania Committee work. She drew skilfully on the work of Warwick Elley and Francis Mungubai and captured to essence of the book flood learning and the importance of acknowledging and using community stories. Barbara showed incredible leadership across the Pacific–promoting effective practice in literacy and a love of learning, enhancing leadership, encouraging International Reading Association (IRA) membership, and supporting learning in and the publication of resources in children’s first languages.
IRA benefited immensely from Barbara’s commitment. She worked tirelessly to foster IRA’s goals, which she did with integrity and enthusiasm. She guided the International Development Coordinating Committee with co-chair Alistair Hendry, and worked to build positive and constructive relationships with the IRA Board of Directors–relationships that have continued to this day. At the first IRA International Leadership Conference in 1993 Barbara joined the NZRA "delegation" in presenting a very real view of New Zealand education that acknowledged our international links. At the traditional Committee Chairs breakfast at IRA conventions Barbara frequently shared her introduction with stories that were real and inspirational. Barbara’s love of literature and education was always a significant guiding influence.
Barbara was awarded the NZRA Citation of Merit in 1996. This is NZRA’s highest honour, given sparingly, to a person who has contributed significantly to local councils, to reading and to New Zealand (and international) education. One of the criteria was evidenced through Barbara’s participation in sponsoring Pasifika teachers to attend conferences–to set up specific programmes within conferences so that their time was focused and useful. For the 4th South Pacific Conference on Reading, held in Fiji, Barbara held the organisation together way beyond the planning. Pasifika teachers reported that Barbara’s intervention made their participation genuinely educationally productive.
The current highly successful initiatives of the Oceania Committee are based squarely on the work of Barbara. She enhanced the concept of language experience with texts developed by local people in their first language. Barbara was an educator ahead of her time. I am privileged to have worked with her and to have learned from her.
Barbara’s contribution to education is summed up nicely in her book, Rescuing the Castaways, written with Teraaka Biribo for the 12th IRA World Congress on Reading on the Gold Coast in 1988. This quote is from Chapter 7: “If you are literate, you feel like a human being, for you can learn about the world for yourself; and communicate with different people in different places. You gain through reading and become part of the wider world.”
Thank you, Barbara Moore.
Heather Bell is a member of the International Reading Association's Board of Directors.