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Bookathon is a beautiful sight

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Featherston’s William Johnson will be able to read better if other children and their families around New Zealand join The Great Kiwi Bookathon in June.

The annual Bookathon involves children being sponsored by friends and family to raise money for Blind Low Vision New Zealand’s work to support families around Aotearoa.

Five-year-old William Johnson was born with Rieger’s anomaly congenital glaucoma, causing blindness from birth.

William’s mother Becky Johnson said William spent the first 10 weeks of his life in hospital and had his first surgery at seven days old.

“After multiple surgeries and medication, they were able to get back a little bit of sight in one eye, and he still has no vision in the other,” Johnson said.

William started school this year and Johnson said without the support from organisations like Blind Low Vision New Zealand he wouldn’t be able to attend.

“If he didn’t have funding, we wouldn’t be making much headway with school. We wouldn’t be able to do school,” Johnson said.

“He has a global developmental delay, he’s roughly at a five-year-old level in most things now.”

With partial sight in one eye, William is able to see large print, but when letters are too close to one another, they can appear blurry.

William found it difficult to read with large print, so Johnson is working to get more funding from the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme to have another hour of assisted learning at school.

William has been learning pre-braille skills since he was a baby and the family is working toward his confidence with braille.

“It’s teaching him how to trust his fingers more,” Johnson said.

She said they didn’t like using the word disabled.

“I don’t see him as disabled. He has challenges; he just has to learn differently. He’s bright.

“Every other kid puts their shoes on the same way. William was never able to do that. He’s worked out for himself how he can do it. It’s different, but he gets the end results.”

Johnson works a part-time job while caring for her two children, and taking William to appointments can take a lot of time.

Along with four health appointments this month, William is involved in plenty of activities such as riding horses.

On Thursdays, William attends Wairarapa’s Riding for the Disabled where he got to hold the reins on his own for the first time last week.

  • People can register online at bookathon.co.nz to raise funds to support families like the Johnsons.

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