Started by READ in 1989, the annual Readathon is a literacy awareness campaign which focuses on exciting activities and encourages the appreciation of the joy of reading.

Readathon’s objectives have always been to nurture a culture of reading in South Africa, and to spread awareness of the importance of literacy in building an economically vibrant nation.

As the world’s economy becomes increasingly knowledge based, so the need for literacy among the young has become a priority. Adhering to tradition, the campaign is built around a number of literacy activities. Since inception, the Readathon initiative has reached over 9 000 South African children, nationally.

Each year the Readathon campaign includes:

  • The RED Reading Box
  • Visit to Parliament
  • Provincial Celebrations
  • National Interactive Workshops
  • Pop-up libraries

The RED Reading box

With only 10% of households in South Africa containing more than 25 books in the home for reading enjoyment, there is an obvious need for the children of South Africa to have books of their own, not only when they are at school, but also when they are at home.

In 2013, READ launched the first RED Reading Box – a box filled with books, resources, activities and games aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 12 years.  Contributions by the Sunshine Foundation, MiniMag, Mills Litho and Reading Matters made it possible to distribute 3 000 boxes to children around the country.

The first RED Reading Box was developed around the theme of space. Everything children needed for the ‘space’ activities was neatly organised into the box, ready to be used. The box was also designed to store the books and materials so that they would not get lost – and this requirement has been maintained. The aim of the RED Reading Box is to encourage the love of reading and develop an awareness of the wonders of the world around us.

The 2014 RED Reading Box embraced an Under the Sea theme and was launched nationally as part of the Readathon Campaign to coincide with Literacy Week, celebrated in September. The contents of each RED Reading Box perfectly captured the Readathon Campaign’s overall theme ’Adventures in other worlds’ and had a magical quality, with creative posters, a clever and fun selection of interactive books and hands-on activities. Again, everything was geared to promote reading and writing while developing creativity and increasing general knowledge. And what wonderful knowledge can be gleaned from under the sea! RED Reading Boxes were sponsored by Reading Matters and supported by Clyson printers and MiniMag magazine.

The 2015 RED Reading Box theme is fantasy, a subject once underrated in its power to stimulate, excite and grow young minds. Fantasy is for everyone, of all cultures, all over the world, and its origin is lost in the mists of time. It includes fairy tales, folk tales, legends, fables and myths. It lives in the imagination and has creatures with their own characters, energy and power, living in enchanted worlds with their own customs, mystical landscapes with glass mountains and magical castles, and where everything is possible.

Visit to Parliament

In 2013, as part of READ’s programme to boost literacy in this country through the dynamic Readathon campaign, a group of children from Wesley Practising School, accompanied by Readathon Ambassador Hlubi Mboya, visited Parliament to read and present the RED Reading Box to the portfolio committees of Education and Science.

Portfolio committee members generously gave of their time to listen to the children read and pointed out the vital importance of reading, not only to open up new worlds of every kind, but to ensure South Africa’s success in an increasingly information-based world economy.

The visit included a tour of the impressive and historic Parliament building, which had the children wide-eyed. Initiatives such as this have contributed to the success of the Readathon campaign, which has promoted the art of reading to a new level of significance in the growth of the children, their parents, and our country.

Provincial Celebrations


On September 6, 2013 the Readathon campaign was launched at a function held at READ Educational Trust’s offices in Ormonde, Johannesburg. Children from various schools were given their share of the 3 000 RED Reading Boxes being distributed countrywide, and invited to explore the contents, including a free copy of MiniMag, generously donated by the magazine.

Regional celebrations were also held in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.


In Mpumalanga, learners from Ekuphumuleni Primary School in the Schoemansdal area, near Malelane, were chosen to read during the Readathon to members of the public in a shopping centre where they were welcomed and earned well-deserved praise.

Also in 2013, ten Malelane Rally schools joined forces with ten other schools from the surrounding areas in a Readathon celebration which encouraged participation by the whole community. The event took place at Ekuphumuleni Primary School and the day started with a bang, with reporters from the Lowveld newspaper ready with their cameras to record all that was going on.

Delegates from the Departments of Education, Health, Roads and Safety, and Correctional Services were all there, as were the Chief of the area, the Chief Whip from the Mayor’s office, the manager of TSB and other READ Mpumalanga trainers. Speakers expressed their excitement about the celebration – particularly the RED Reading Box, the contents of which were shown to the children who were later challenged to try some of the activities and games. At one point they were also asked to read books and present quotes and poems to the guests who, in turn, had an opportunity to read to a number of learners allocated to them.

The fun spread when children were divided into groups, one of which went to the nearby hospital to present and read their ‘get well’ cards to patients. Another, led by drum majorettes, walked to the local shopping centre with placards and books, which they read to the public. In true V.I.P. style, traffic officers were there controlling the traffic, as well as policemen, paramedics and nurses in their ambulances. Groups of children went from shop to shop, to the banks, and to the informal roadside traders to read their placards and books. When the people did not understand the reading in English, translators interpreted it in Siswati.


In the Northern Cape, Grade R learners from schools in the Lime Acres and Danielskuil area, together with those in Rally to READ project schools, gathered to compete in a drama programme at Die Kuil Primere Skool, in Danielskuil.

“I was thrilled to see and feel the excitement of learners and teachers,” says Ita van der Ryst, a READ trainer in the Northern Cape. The standard of the productions was high and humorous – both the audience and adjudicators were in stitches of laughter. Seventeen Grade R schools competed and the winners were Carlientjie, Assmang, Finsch and Sha-Leje, all whom received their certificates from Louise Wessels of Idwala Lime.

Ita van der Ryst

READ trainer

National Interactive Workshops

The 2014 Readathon Campaign was launched nationally through 11 workshops in schools countrywide and concluded in September during International Literacy Week. Intermediate Phase learners were the prime participants. Workshops comprised three two-hour sessions each, facilitated by a READ trainer. Teachers were also involved since the RED Reading Box is an effective, multi-purpose learning tool. Each box provides enough activities to keep a whole class occupied for many hours, with books, fun games and posters designed to interest and develop creativity.

Pop-up Libraries

A brilliant READ innovation, launched in 2014 as part of the Readathon Campaign is the Readathon Pop-up Library which makes a terrific impact whenever and wherever one pops up.

The Pop-up Library consists of book shelves, books and bean bags which can be set up in minutes and instantly attracts passers-by. Children especially vie to commandeer a bean bag while they listen to an absorbing story read by Mr Book, or a READ Ambassador!

To date, these libraries have proved hugely popular and are definitely fulfilling their promises of creating awareness around the culture of reading;  making books and reading accessible to people and showing just how ‘cool’ it is to be a young reader.

The people who man and support our Readathon Pop-up Libraries are passionate about reading and quickly engage both kids and adults in enthusiastic discussion about books and the pleasure of reading.

Readathon Pop-up Libraries first appeared in 2014 in Jabulani Mall, Soweto, on September 10, and in Fourways Mall, north of Johannesburg, on September 12. These were in celebration of Literacy Week which took place from September 8 – 12. To celebrate the 2015 World Book Day on April 23, another popped-up  in Westbury, close to both the primary and high schools on Roberts Avenue.

Mr Book made his presence felt on all three occasions and to the surprise and delight of  all those whose attention was captured by the Readathon Pop-up Libraries at Jabulani and Westbury, there was the iconic Hlubi Mboya -very real, vitally alive and reading to the kids with Mr Book. As a READ Ambassador, Ms Mboya is fully committed to helping READ promote literacy in South Africa.

One passer-by who got involved made this telling comment: “You know, all we hear about is maths and science. I was a teacher and to quote Louisa Moats ‘Teaching reading IS rocket science’ – and reading is the basis of all education.” This underlines READ’s commitment to getting our country to read.

The objectives of the Readathon Pop-up Libraries go even deeper. They are also designed to:

promote the benefits of reading to enhance the individual’s personal growth and  knowledge as well as to better their life

promote the importance of growing literacy in South Africa for the country to progress

increase the availability of books through the concept of a library

generate excitement and enthusiasm that will translate into more reading


Your support is welcome and appreciated. Thank you.

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