On July 11, 40 writers will start 72 hours of pounding out words as fast as we can. Prizes will be awarded for the best novel in each category (Juvenile, Young Adult, Adult), most words written, and most funds raised. It’s the 2014 Muskoka Novel Marathon, in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada.
It is a mad dash, a word frenzy. For what purpose?
Why will we be throwing our literary skills at the page?
Because we can. And too many people cannot.
We are raising money so the people who cannot read this blog post can learn how.
I cannot remember a time before I could read. My earliest memories include being shamed at school because I came to school being able to read and my teacher didn’t know what to do with me while she was teaching my classmates. I took reading for granted.
But, it wasn’t until I started talking to my friends who have participated in the Muskoka Novel Marathon in the past that I gave much consideration to how deeply embedded reading is in my life.
Written words are everywhere.
Think about the things you would not be able to do if you could not read.
- Any interaction, research, or learning that you use the internet for.
- Reading want ads to find a job.
- Understanding the materials your children bring home from school.
- Sending messages back to the teacher.
- Reading street signs.
- Checking the dosage of medication on the packaging.
- Keep a shopping list.
- Fill out forms: taxes, school information, etc.
- Maintain a calendar.
- Follow a recipe.
- Check that a bill is correct.
- Understand a contract.
- Check tv listings.
- Read ingredients in packaged foods.
For the person who cannot read, all of these, and all the other sources of and uses of information in this information age are out of reach. The text to voice apps out there only address a few of these issues, and not the most important ones.
The stigma associated with illiteracy makes it hard for a person who has left school functionally illiterate to ask for help. A lifetime of hiding this inability takes is toll.
And it isn’t a small problem
According to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, 42% of Canadian adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills.
The YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka is part of the solution. Through their Literacy Services programs, they offer free instruction in literacy, numeracy, computer and basic life skills to out-of-school teens and adults.
Their success stories include Nora Bartlett, who upgraded her literacy skills to the point that she now participates in the Muskoka Novel Marathon as a writer. Some grads, Lowe says, “have since opened businesses of their own; others can now read and write well enough to help their children with their homework.
“All have seen their self confidence grow in leaps and bounds as a result of the success they have had.”
And that is why I am joining the rest of the writers for a weekend inside, ignoring the call of summer and giving of myself. To pass the gift of reading on to someone who needs it.
Won’t you help me by clicking here and making a donation?