Mem Fox is an Australian author of many children’s books. She is also a passionate advocate for reading aloud to children, and has written Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever for an adult audience. You can learn more about Mem Fox on her website.
In her book, Reading Magic, Mem Fox pleasantly persuades her readers to want to read to children. She is so enthusiastic in her approach, that after reading each chapter it is almost impossible to not want to grab a book and find a cozy spot to read with a child. Her humorous writing style grabs you as a reader, and hooks you into reading chapter after chapter.
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About once a month, I will be reading and reviewing a book and reporting back to you about what I’ve learned. I often try to read a non-fiction/parenting/self-help book in conjunction with the books I read for fun. If I read a little bit each day, I can work through some great books that I may not have chosen as my first choice, but definitely want to read. This method seems to work well for me, as I work through my ever-growing to-be-read list.
Before I read Reading Magic, I was already a reading advocate, and very much in favor of reading. (That sounds funny. Are you FOR reading or AGAINST reading? Who is going to be against reading? But seriously, many families don’t make reading the priority that it should be.) So, Mem Fox didn’t need to convince me to read to my children, or that reading is important. But she did give me more reasons why reading is so important. In this easy to understand format, Reading Magic is a simple way for me to pass those reasons on to other parents!
In Reading Magic, Mem Fox makes some Strong Points in Favor of Reading:
“…the more language a child experiences-through books and through conversations with others, not passively from television-the more advantaged socially, educationally, and in every way that child will be for the rest of his or her life.” Reading Magic, p. 17
The more words a child is exposed to, the greater their vocabulary development. And the type of language used in books includes many words that we don’t regularly use in day to day conversation.
“The time spent reading together provides clear evidence to a child of a parent’s love, care, and focused attention.” Reading Magic, p. 20
When we sit down and devote time to read with our child, that shows our son or daughter that we want to spend time with them and we are making that time a priority. This dedicated time has added benefits, and many parents see better behavior as a result of intentional one-on-one time.
“It’s beneficial to continue reading aloud to children for as long as they’ll let us, even after they can finally read for themselves.”Reading Magic, p. 38
Start reading to them when they are babies, and continue reading to them! If you didn’t start when they were babies, start now! There are many amazing read-alouds for older children. We still read to our boys, who are now 9 and 11 years old, and are fully capable of reading to themselves. It is a special time together and we all enjoy reading together.
“We can provide a great deal of information by the act of reading itself. The more we read aloud to our kids and the more they read by themselves, the more experience they’ll have of the world through the things they encounter in books. And the more experience they have of the world, the easier it will be to read.” Reading Magic, p. 104
When I was working as a classroom teacher, I noticed that my students had a much easier time comprehending what they were reading when they had background knowledge to relate to it. We talked in my education program about “activating prior knowledge” when introducing a new topic to a group of students. It worked! I found that when we did that first, they got much more out of what they were reading. How does that translate to you and your child? The more reading they do, the more exposure your child will have to the world. The more exposure they have, the better they will understand what the read as they get older. The more they understand, the more they will enjoy reading. It’s a cycle and reading more now will only help later.
What Mem Has to Say About Kids Who “Don’t Like to Sit Still”
Parents commonly tell me that their children just don’t like to sit still and listen to a book. Mem Fox encourages starting early and making reading aloud a habit:
“Children who are read to early and regularly quickly acquire the skill of listening and the desire to hear stories. They understand the immense pleasures waiting for them in books and develop the ability to concentrate and relax.” Reading Magic, p. 33
She suggests actively reading to kids, involving them in the process, so it isn’t a passive listening session. She also encourages parents to read at bedtime, when kids are naturally more tired, especially for really active children.
The bottom line
“Reading aloud shouldn’t be thought of as a grimacing This Is Good For Your Child event for mothers and fathers. When we get involved in reading aloud to our babies and other children, we often forget entirely that we should be reading aloud. We have such a rollicking good time, and we relate so warmly to our kids as we read together, that it becomes a delicious “chocolate” kind of experience.” Reading Magic, p. 10-11
That’s what we want. We want to want to read to our kids. We want our kids to want to read with us. Reading should be a treat. It should be like eating chocolate or another delicious dessert. It should be a wonderful, warm, snuggly experience that we all enjoy. Don’t let the smart phones and devices take that enjoyment away from you and your kids. Instead, gather up a pile of books and just enjoy reading together. If you have a little one, start now! If you have a not-so-little one, start now! Make reading a habit in your home!
Fox, Mem. Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2008. Print.
Some picture books by Mem Fox: