Honour for a literary champ

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Cookernup-born Dame Wendy Pye is the first recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Education from Massey University in New Zealand.
Camera IconCookernup-born Dame Wendy Pye is the first recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Education from Massey University in New Zealand.

A Cookernup girl who once read fairy tales on her family’s dairy farm has become the first recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Education at one of New Zealand’s leading universities.

Dame Wendy Pye received the honour from Massey University last month for her commitment to education and literacy through her business Wendy Pye Publishing and its major early education arm Sunshine Books.

Her company has a publishing list of more than 2000 fiction and non-fiction titles which have sold more than 300 million copies and are supported by the online education tool Sunshine Online was used by more than two million children for early learning in Australia last year.

Dame Wendy adds the degree to a staggering list of achievements including being the first women inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame, becoming Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and education, the MBE for International Services to Literacy and Publishing, as well as being named one of the most powerful business women by Forbes magazine Asia.

She said all of this stemmed from her mother’s love of reading, and her “luck” in gaining a good education at Cookernup school, Harvey Convent, Harvey Senior High School and Bunbury Senior High School.

Starting out as a copywriter at 6KY radio, Dame Wendy then wrote copy for David Jones, before moving to Sydney to further her journalism career and later New Zealand when she got married.

Her interest in education was sparked while writing a story about a dyslexia program.

“For the first time in my life I met children who could not read,” Dame Wendy said.

“I decided I would devote the rest of my life to helping them.”

She founded the Wendy Pye Foundation to tackle education and literacy problems around the globe.

“My passion is education,” Dame Wendy said.

“Especially for girls, who are not going to school in a lot of these countries.

“It’s fantastic to see education take people out of poverty.

“Once you learn to read, you gain confidence.”

Dame Wendy has run programs in Apartheid era Africa, worked with the World Bank in Brazil, and is presently working with migrants in Germany as well as teaching male prison inmates in New Zealand how to read to their children.

“Everybody should read to their children. Print is still so important to young children especially.”

Despite her love of reading, Dame Wendy has decided to remain illiterate on one count.

“Retirement is not a word I will enter into,” she said.

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