The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Ireland Readathon was launched by Roald Dahl in 1988. Traditionally, it was just for kids, but this year, MS Ireland wants the “grown ups” to take part and get their offices, clubs and families to rediscover their love of reading.

Ava Battles, chief executive of MS Ireland, said: “This year, it takes on a whole new level of importance as we hope to mitigate the expected fundraising losses of over €1m due to COVID-19. We’ve all had to adapt to our new reality and this year MS Ireland is embracing the challenges by making the Readathon a virtual campaign.”

Olivia Kirwan (41) has been living with MS for 11 years and is this year’s Readathon ambassador.

“During lockdown, I was quite anxious. I rang the MS Ireland helpline, they were great, advised me as to the risks, the best way for me to do things to protect myself and we had a nice chat that really calmed my nerves. With the Readathon coming I am really looking forward to the reading time together with my three kids.”

The MS Readathon

While the MS Readathon is set to be different to previous years, the concept hasn’t changed. Students read as much as they can for the month of November. By bringing the Readathon online, the charity is addressing a number of COVID-19 concerns. These include less physical touch points, as all sponsorship is now online, there are no sponsorship cards. It is also easier for time-pressed teachers as now it’s simply a matter of registering the school and class and sending a link to the parents. There is also an environmental benefit with 45,000 paper sponsorship packs no longer necessary. All the details are on the MS Readathon Ireland website ( Members of the public with any queries relating to MS can call 1850 233 233 and for more on Multiple Sclerosis visit

Stephen Devers

Stephen Devers is in school in St Tiernan's College, Crossmolin, Co. Mayo and has taken part in the MS Readathon for the last four years.

Stephen Devers (14) lives in the countryside just outside Crossmolina, Co Mayo. Aside from reading, he likes to play soccer and Gaelic football (plays both for school and says he is “pretty good”) and also the PlayStation 4. He has two younger brothers, Dillon (seven) and Mark (12). According to Stephen they read a bit too and so does his mam Aileen, “the same as me, factual stuff”.

How many years have you been doing Readathon?

“From primary school into secondary school, reading about six books every year so far. The teachers introduced us to it when we were in fourth class and we did it up to sixth class. Then I did it myself in secondary school.”

Do you know what you are raising the money for?

“Yes (he had looked it up for us in fairness). Multiple sclerosis is a chronic illness of the nervous system. A potentially disabling disease of the spinal cord and the brain. I think that it is a very important charity to raise money for.”

What do you like to read?

“I am in second year now in St Tiernan’s College in Crossmolina. Of the 10 subjects I’m doing, I like geography. I like learning about the Earth and what is on it and what happens. I think that is why I like non-fiction books. I like the facts that you would learn in them. If I get a new book, I would read the book before I go on the Playstation. I do put aside a bit of time to read a book when I go to bed in the evening.”

What is your favourite book?

“Beyond the Sky; You and the Universe. It is from Dara Ó Briain. He is a comedian and a scientist. The book is about space and the planets and if there is life on them and can we live on them and discovering the world around you. I suppose that is tied in with the geography.”

How many books do you intend to read this year?

“I intend to read as many as I can. Maybe 10, that would be my goal.”

How much money are you trying to raise for the charity?

“Forty to fifty euro – everyone throws in a few bob.”

Anything else you want to tell us?

“I have a Liverpool book that I would like to mention too - The Liverpool Story. It’s about the history of the club. I am a big Liverpool fan. Jurgen Klopp is the coach and he is very good and he has a biography too.”

Ayla-Shea Grogan

Ayla-Shea Grogan took part in the 2020 Australian MS Readathon. the Irish version kicks off in November.

The MS Readathon took place in Australia in August and raised AUS$3,218,139. Ayla-Shea Grogan was one of the 41,232 children that participated.

Ayla-Shea will turn 11 in November. She attends St Joseph’s primary school in Northam, western Australia. Ayla Shea’s interests include horse riding, gaming, nature, cooking, reading and writing.

“I just won my first writing competition, which was inspired by my favourite author Rick Riordan. I won $100 and will be awarded a trophy at the presentation in Perth.

“I live with my two sisters and brother and mum and dad in the Wheatbelt area of western Australia. This is my first year doing the Readathon, but I intend to do it next year again as I really enjoyed it.”

Do you know what you are raising the money for?

“It is to support kids who have a parent living with multiple sclerosis. It allows them to go on holidays together and do stuff that they wouldn’t otherwise get to do.”

What type of books do you like to read?

“Myths and legends, action and adventure. I like to read those kinds of books because I like the fantasy and how everyday facts are intertwined in amongst the myths.”

What is your favourite book that you have read as part of the Readathon?

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan as it has my four favourite characters in it. Hazel Levesque, Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase and Frank Zhang and it is a great story with lots of action and surprises. I love the adventure and suspense in the book and that it always had surprises.”

How many books did you read?

“I intended to read 25 but only reached 20, but I read some books twice.”

How much money are you trying to raise?

“I was aiming for AUS$100-150. I only raised $99 but I will aim for higher in the future. Next year I will ask more people to sponsor me outside of my family.”

Anything else you want to tell us?

“My brother and sister also did the Readathon. Eli read about 25 books but his books were smaller than mine!

“Sadie read 15, which was really great for a six year old! It was a nice thing to do together.”