IT'S a tradition that has been around since Phillippa Hutchinson was a child, but this year it is taking on a very special significance.
The Warrenheip mum, 44, and her children Felicity (nine) and Parker (eight) are reading as much as they can throughout August for the MS Readathon.
For Mrs Hutchinson it has a special significance, herself having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) just two years ago, and already requiring daily use of a walker at home and a wheelchair when out.
"I used to do MS Readathon it as a child and I remember it used to be a huge thing, but for me disappeared off the radar," she said.
"When I got diagnosed, we attended a camp for families last year and I found out the readathon funds the camps.
"So naturally we jumped on the bandwagon. The kids signed up back in May.
"Parker is powering through young reader novels, but Felicity is quite advanced, so she's slowly getting through some young adult novels.
"I'm still working through my first novel as I do now struggle at times with my eyesight, but we're getting there.
"That is one of the great things of the readathon. It's for all ages, all abilities you can be a first readers all the way up to adults who can join up."
Mrs Hutchinson said her life had been turned upside down by the diagnosis.
"I had recently returned to work as my children had gone to school," she said.
"I worked in childcare and one day I thought I'd done my back as you do but I also had a little numb spot on my leg and it was that numbness that sparked the flags to the doctors.
"It was a whirlwind of specialists and I just said, 'no, I'm a mum, I haven't got time for that'.
"But there's just so much to learn, our whole world has changed, everything I thought my life would be, it's gone, but my children still have their mum, so I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
"With the MS comes the fatigue, I always expected to be back to 40 hours a week, now I'm retired and unable to work. I'm now on a four wheeled walker and need a wheelchair when I'm outside."
A record-breaking 21,000 primary and junior high school students across Australia have signed up to raise funds to send people living with multiple sclerosis on special family camps.
These camps include activities like rope climbing, and entertainment ranging from circus skills to petting zoos.
Students raise money for the MS camps by getting sponsored for reading as much as they can during the month of August.
Multiple Sclerosis Limited Head of Individual Giving Natasha Duncan says the MS Readathon is an important fundraiser that allows families to spend some quality time together without being overshadowed by the pressures of having MS.
"Every school has a connection to someone with MS like Philippa and every year the Readathon helps raise funds for those families," Ms Duncan said.
"The Readathon gives kids a reason to read. Through the characters in books, the students gradually learn to understand how other people think and feel, and in many ways those characters are a lot like them.
"That growing sense of empathy serves them well when it comes to understanding and helping people in their school community."
Mrs Hutchinson said the family's participation in an MS Camp last year was invaluable.
"It not only gave the kids the chance to be 'normal' but it was also an educational experience where we learnt more about the disease and its impact.
"Best of all, we made many friends with families in similar situations to ours.
"Having MS is really hard on Felicity and Parker and all the family really, especially if there's a school event that I can't get to or even a trip to the movies," Mrs Hutchinson said.
"The MS camps give us the chance to unwind and have fun as a family."
The MS Readthon runs until the end of August. Donations can be made at msreadathon.com.au
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