BookshelvesJane Rawson is the author of A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, which won the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award in 2014. Jane has created a readathon to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation over June and July, and below she describes her fabulous initiative.

Just Read – why you should join a readathon and raise money for Indigenous literacy

I am incredibly lucky: I was born in a home where books where everywhere and reading was valued. My parents read to me and encouraged me to read and to write from when I was very small. They also read in front of me, all the time, as though it were a thing worth doing.

I am not especially good at the everyday business of living. I often feel uncomfortable and awkward and embarrassed, sometimes scared or angry, just dumbfounded by the ways the world can be. Reading is my comfort and my confidante and I cannot imagine what life would be like to be without it. Horrible.

But even people who find the world encouraging and sensible often enjoy reading (or so I’m told). It’s entertaining. It tells you about things you might otherwise never have known existed. It can make you both smarter and wiser. You can imagine being places you can’t go or people you can’t be. And you can use it to impress people.

What if you had never had the chance to learn to read? What would life be like without it?

Many Indigenous kids, particularly in remote communities, cannot get their hands on books. Here are some stats from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation:

  • Indigenous homes, particularly those in remote communities, have fewer books, computers and other educational resources than non-Indigenous homes.
  • The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students emerges early. Non-Indigenous students far out-perform Indigenous students in benchmark tests for reading, writing and numeracy in Year 3 and Year 5.
  • By the age of 15, more than one-third of Australia’s Indigenous students ‘do not have the adequate skills and knowledge in reading literacy to meet real-life challenges and may well be disadvantaged in their lives beyond school’.
  • In the Northern Territory, only one in five children living in very remote Indigenous communities can read at the accepted minimum standard.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation gets books for these kids and helps them learn to read. I’ve started a readathon where you can read, raise money for ILF and give more people the gift of reading. It runs in June and July, you can read whatever you like and set your own targets for reading and for fundraising. If you struggle to find time to read as much as you’d like, you can devote two months to reading guilt-free – you’ll be doing it for a good cause.

While you can read whatever you want, many readers are setting themselves a specific reading challenge. I’ve asked people to sponsor me to read a book they think I should read. Adam Ford is reading – and reflecting on – two poems a day. Both Rebecca Lim and Imbi Neeme are taking the opportunity to get through their guilt-inducing and teetering to-read piles. This could be your chance to really knuckle down and get to the target you’ve set yourself for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Over the next two months I’ll be posting reading suggestions as well as guest posts from other readers (and if you’d like to do a guest post, let me know).

To sign up, go to Just Read readathon. If you’d rather sponsor a reader, you can do that instead. So far 25 people have signed up (and you should feel free to sponsor any of them) and between us we’ve raised $2800. By the end of July I’d love to have sent $5000 the way of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. If joining the readathon also reminds a few people how great it is to read, that will be a bonus.

Get reading, because you can.