Reading Magic

Reading MagicReading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. Illustrated by Judy Horacek. Published by Harcourt, Inc., 2001. 156 pages.

If sheer enthusiasm has anything to do with it, Mem Fox will soon have multitudes of parents reading aloud to their children. In her lively, fast-paced book, this children’s writer and literacy educator describes the seemingly magical effect of reading aloud on children’s literacy and development. She gives various how-to tips, from simple advice on using one’s voice to suggestions for “spontaneous reading games.” No high-stress drills here; the emphasis is on light-hearted play.

According to Fox, children should learn to recognize entire stories first, then words, then specific letters and the sounds they represent. The ultimate goal is to bring together three elements: “understanding print, understanding language, and understanding how the world works.” To become good readers, children need to comprehend the connection between printed letters and the sounds we speak. They need to build their vocabularies and discover how we put words together in poetry, songs, and books. And they need to learn more about life and their surroundings. Reading to children helps tremendously with all three tasks.

Fox, however, might not use such a solemn word as “task,” because reading aloud is so much fun. In Reading Magic, she argues persuasively that parents and other caregivers can and should help children learn to read; it’s quite doable, and what’s more, everyone involved will have a wonderful time.

– Martha Sibert