MS Readathon

This week Keith Byrne talks about the MS Readathon, his love of books and why he is reading the Irish – English Dictionary

The MS Readathon has become embedded in Irish Primary school culture over the last 30 years. It is MS Ireland's standout fundraiser and is a great way to encourage children (and adults) to read more often. I remember taking part in the Readathon for the first time as far back as the early nineties. Little did I know back then what life had in store.

If you're one of the many people who would love to start investing more of their time into reading, the Readathon is a great incentive. Everybody reads at different speeds and enjoys different categories of books. I would advise anyone doing the Readathon to set yourself a realistic goal in advance. I've always been a slow reader myself. As a father to a two year old I find myself reading more books with my son than I ever did by myself - three before each nap time at a minimum! Although books for toddlers are generally a quick read they can still be inspiring and witty - at least the first few times you read them :)

My substandard concentration levels have resulted in me putting books down and never coming back to them. Maybe this can be attributed to a cognitive impairment caused by MS but I don't really know.  I do know, however, that when I do persist with a relatively long read I rarely regret it. Books can trigger thoughts and emotions rarely mirrored by TV or cinema. In the great debate "what was better - the book or the film?” the movie rarely comes out on top.

Brain Fog

I struggle with brain fog multiple times a day. Not being able to think of the word when you know exactly how to describe it can be so frustrating. I find reading and writing the best ways to challenge this. Unfortunately, writing has had to take a step back in my list of priorities this year. I believe, as a result of this, my brain is finding it more and more difficult to locate the exact word in a reasonable timeframe. More often than not, the person I'm conversing with has to assist me to find the word I'm striving for; as they generally know what I'm trying to say. They mightn't even realise they're helping me but I am very conscious of it.

Although I accept brain fog (in my case forgetting words even when you can explain them, going off topic, forgetting the actual point of your conversation) is a very common symptom of MS. The more time I spend reading or writing the less brain fog occurs. I know writing, in particular, isn't for everyone and this blog is concerned about the MS Readathon so I'd like to share a few books that have held me in good stead over the years.

Take up the challenge

Perhaps you might take up the challenge and read over one or two of them as part of this year’s Readathon.   

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

You really appreciate how well someone knows you when they recommend a book to you that you end up adoring. My younger sister studied this as part of her Leaving Cert and insisted I read it too. Thank you Kerri! A brilliant book and a great stage adaptation to boot.  

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Written by Markus and recommended to be by another Marcus - best man at my wedding. The book is narrated by Death who claims to be haunted by Humans. I read this prior to diagnosis but I can totally relate to the narrator as I feel constantly haunted by MS.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Almost too obvious a choice, but phenomenon’s happen for a reason. Even if you've seen the films, the books are so much more in depth and are addictive to read. It's worth noting that J.K. Rowling's mother had MS and you get a great sense of empathy across some brilliant characters throughout the books.

Animal Farm & 1984 both by George Orwell

These were written over 70 years ago but their stories still ring true today with leaders reneging on their promises in Animal Farm and Big Brother and the Thought Police in 1984. Two of my all time favourite books.

Charlie agus Monarcha na Seacláide by Roald Dahl

I've started a Post Graduate course to become a Primary School teacher. As such I need to brush up on my Irish. The man himself, Roald Dahl, launched the first ever MS Readathon 32 years ago. By sheer coincidence, I'm currently reading Charlie and the Chocolate factory translated into Irish. I'm also reading the Irish-English dictionary at the same time :) 

Finally, for younger readers, here are some books that I regularly read to my son:

The Gruffalo & The Gruffalo's Child by Julia Donaldson

The Aliens Love Underpants Series by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

Supertato: Veggies in the Valley of Doom by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet

I Need a New Bum! by Dawn McMillan 

Happy Reading!!!