Reading Magic by Mem Fox

Mem Fox is a successful children’s book author and literacy expert. But her expertise in Reading Magic (Harcourt 2001) comes across as personal and passionate, mostly because she writes foremost from her position as a mother. Her main point in writing this book is to read aloud to our children, making it a fun time and a game, as parents let their children learn from the words that surround them in their daily lives.

I loved reading this book. Nothing Ms Fox said was surprising or new to me. Back in 2009, I started a project to read my then 26-month-old son 1000 books before he started kindergarten. Just over 18 months later, we’d read 1000 different books together (that I’d recorded, at least) and he was reading on his own. Everything Ms Fox suggests is thus backed up by our application of it! It was not a struggle. It was fun. 

Mem Fox’s book is very personal. It’s a quick read. She cites her own books as good examples (of course) and uses them as samples as she explains how to make reading together a game. This was a fun reminder to me of everything I try to be doing as a parent. With little Strawberry, I am afraid I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading picture books together every night. We’re always so busy and she’s so tired. But Mem Fox’s book has reminded me that with child number 2, it is still just as important to not skimp on the fun process that is reading together.

I was a bit wary of her warnings to parents to make sure not to teach their kids formally and the emphasis on sending your kids away to preschool because parents are not for teaching but playing. I am not certain that is what she really meant, but that is what it sounded like. I somewhat wonder what her thoughts on parents homeschooling their kids.

And yet that was just a small note. I know what she was saying. Truly, there is no need to formally set up a program of learning for the youngest kids. Teaching your child to read begins with the first day of his or her life, when you read him or her a story for the first time. And yet, the process does not require formal curriculum at those ages.

Instead, Mem Fox argues that parents should enjoy the sweet moments in reading aloud to their kids. I know I truly do.