Moone Boy star David Rawle encourages children to get involved in this year’s MS Readathon

New chapter: Moone Boy actors Ian O'Reilly and David Rawle at the launch of MS Readathon which begins today and runs until November 9. Picture: Naoise Culhane

Moone Boy star David Rawle has a new favourite book. It has a girly cover and it’s not what he’d usually buy.

But the almost 15-year-old says Sarah Crossan’s One is “extraordinary, really different and beautiful”.

“It’s about conjoined twins. It’s told by Grace, one of the twins and it’s written in verse. My aunt said [the book] is so big and so small and so simple and so complex,” says the Leitrim teen, who plays Martin Moone in the Irish sitcom.

Along with his Moone Boy co-star, Ian O’Reilly, David recently launched MS Readathon 2015, Ireland’s largest school-sponsored reading initiative. 

The two self-confessed reading enthusiasts are encouraging schools nationwide to immerse themselves in books this month and raise vital funds for people with multiple sclerosis. 

Last year saw more than 15,000 children in 450 schools participate.

David remembers his parents reading him the Mr Men books when he was small and also recalls “getting Captain Underpants off my cousin”. 

But it wasn’t until he started reading the Percy Jackson books that he began to love books.

With his Junior Cert looming in June, David had to put away in early September the “huge pile of 20 books” he’d built up on his bedside table during summer.

“I have to knuckle down now it’s Junior Cert year but the pile has risen again to 10 books.”

In this collection are two Terry Pratchett books, Edgar Allan Poe’s Complete Stories — “someone lent me those” — and ‘the really beautifully bound” Once Upon a Place, compiled by Laureate Na nÓg Eoin Colfer.

David’s favourite author is Derek Landy. “He’s just so witty and his dialogue is amazing.”

Not surprisingly, David comes from a family of readers. Mum Bernie has “a huge library of books”. Sister Aisling, 17, loves reading. 

“Her collection isn’t as big as mine — we have a bit of a competition going. She’s into the classics — I haven’t got into those yet. My dad is proud of the fact that he doesn’t read fiction. He reads factual books.”

While none of his friends are big readers, he met some fellow book-lovers in the Gaeltacht this summer. 

“I don’t really like Anthony Horowitz [books] but I was wearing a t-shirt with a symbol of a series of his books. The amount of people who said ‘Oh, I love those books! Have you read them? They’re amazing!’ 

"I was thinking ‘I wouldn’t have thought of you as a reader’. It was nice to see how many young people are reading.”

Irish writer and illustrator Oisín McGann writes for children and teens, mainly science fiction and fantasy. He says age eight to 12 years is often when children stop reading or don’t take it up. 

“They can read but they’re not making a habit of it.” McGann recommends parents find out what their children are passionate about.

“This is a really important time for getting them comfortable reading whatever grabs them at this stage. Whatever they like to read, just encourage it, even if parents think it’s too formulaic or simple by their standards.”

At around age seven to nine, children are focused on de-coding words — comprehension around the fuller meaning of the story. 

“This can lead to reluctance around reading. It’s important they’re making meaning from what they’re reading and not just de-coding,” says Niamh Fortune, lecturer at the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education at Maynooth University.

Parents can help children by making the reading more interactive. 

“Ask them questions that don’t just elicit yes/no answers. Before you even open the book, ask what they think the book is going to be about.” Later you could ask: ‘How would they make a film of it? What is their favourite bit? Why?’

She suggests — with children of any age up to 12 — to do paired reading with them. 

“The parent reads one character’s part, the child reads another character’s and you have a little reader’s theatre going.” 

An older sibling can also stand in for the parent. 

“This buddy reading has been proven to help the older child’s reading too,” says Fortune.

MS Readathon month starts today and runs until Monday, November 9. The Readathon is the key annual fundraising campaign of Multiple Sclerosis Ireland, the services, information and advocacy organisation supporting people with MS. 

An estimated 8,000 people in Ireland have MS, a chronic disease that’s the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young adults in Ireland. MS has no known cause or cure.

Every year, MS Readathon school ambassadors — local people living with MS — visit schools as part of the campaign to help students understand more about the condition.

For participating schools countrywide, the 28th MS Readathon will provide individual certificate and gift for each reader; school and library awards; 10% of money raised goes back into resources for each participating school and the ‘Great Teacher Holiday draw’.

* To get involved with MS Readathon 2015, phone 01 678 1600; email read@msreadathon.ie; visit www.msreadathon.ie 

Irish authors recall their favourite childhood books - Oct 9, 2015

Irish authors and illustrators, who lend their support to MS Readathon, recall their favourite books from childhood:

* Sarah Webb:

“I reread children’s books all the time. I love The Red Tree, a picture book for all ages by Shaun Tan as it makes me think about what’s important in life. I also love Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. It reminds me what it feels like to be a teenager.”

* Nicola Pierce:

“I intend to reread one of my favourite books from childhood, Children on the Oregon Trail by A Rutgers van der Loeff.

Over the last couple of years I’ve fallen in love with American history but my interest began with this book — the true story of a pioneering family crossing the Wild West of America in 1844 to find a new home. I love stories about journeys. 

This depicts how 13-year-old John Sager had to take care of his six younger sisters and brothers after his father dies and then his mother.”

* Pauline McLynn:

“I always enjoyed Enid Blyton books as a child, especially the Adventure series when a group of kids constantly got separated from their parents and stranded somewhere like an island or a mountain and had massive adventures. 

"They were very thrilling and imaginative stories. I also loved Nancy Drew. She was the first detective I fell for!”

* Claudia Carroll:

“I’m a massive fan of Alice in Wonderland. As a child, I was utterly convinced that if I just chased enough white rabbits, I’d eventually end up in this magical wonderland beneath the earth’s surface.”

* Judi Curtin:

“My reread book is Heidi. It has a wonderful sense of place. When reading it, I can imagine myself wandering in the Alps, listening to the sound of the goats’ bells.”

* Cecelia Ahern:

“My favourite books growing up were the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, Sweet Valley Twins and The Baby-Sitters Club.

Two books that impacted me most were Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon McKenna and The Best Little Girl in the World by Steven Levenkron.”


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