It’s time to put down the Pokémon and pick up a paperback — the MS Readathon is back for its 37th year.

The MS Readathon has been raising funds for people living with Multiple Sclerosis since 1979, so there’s a good chance many of today’s parents would have taken part in the program when they were kids.

Multiple Sclerosis is the most common neurological disease in young adults (the average age of diagnosis is just 30, and even children as young as 10 have been diagnosed).

Every working day in Australia, four more people in Australia are diagnosed, and have to live with symptoms that can include extreme fatigue; blurred vision; loss of balance and muscle coordination; chronic pain; slurred speech; cognitive, continence and mobility issues; dizziness; and altered sensation such as tingling, numbness and pins and needles.

There is no known cure for MS, but the $40 million the Readathon program has raised provides vital services and support for people with MS, like occupational, physical and social therapy; peer support; advisory sessions through MS Connect; face-to-face education sessions; respite care in fully supported accommodation or in-home respite; workplace assistance; and ongoing renovations to residential facilities.

Students taking part in the Readathon can register as a group or individually, and everything they read counts — even homework! There’s no book list, so school books, comic books, magazines, websites, books parents read to their kids, and books they read to their brothers and sisters all count towards the goal.

Courtesy of Multiple Sclerosis Limited, here are seven reasons you should make sure your child registers for the Readathon.

  1. Reading exercises our brains! Reading is a much more complex task for the human brain than, say, watching TV. Reading strengthens brain connections and builds new connections.
  2. Reading helps kids develop empathy.
  3. Reading develops a child’s imagination. When we read, our brains translate the descriptions we read of people, places and things into pictures. When we’re engaged in a story, we’re also imagining how the characters are feeling. We use our own experiences to imagine how we would feel in the same situation.
  4. Reading is a great form of entertainment! A paperback book doesn’t take up much space so you can take it anywhere, and you’ll never be lonely or bored if you have a book in your bag.
  5. Reading relaxes the body and calms the mind.
  6. Reading teaches kids about the world around them. Through reading, they learn about people, places and events outside their own experience. They are exposed to ways of life, ideas and beliefs about the world which may be different from those which surround them.
  7. No matter how young a child is, it is never too soon to introduce them to the world of books. Studies show that a child develops 80 percent of the attitudes, values, fears and loyalties that they will carry through life in the first six years of life, so parents, sign up and read a book a day with your infants during Readathon!

You can register your kids for the MS Readathon now at msreadathon.org.au.