Have you made your New Year's resolution yet? Or perhaps you've made one and already broken it. Don't despair -- I have another easy one ready-made for you. Resolve to buy a copy (or two, or three) of Mem Fox's book, "Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever."
Part two of this resolution is to give a copy to someone who is expecting a baby or will be expecting one sometime in the future. You could change their lives for $12, the price of this paperback. I'm not kidding. Think about it. How would your life be different if you couldn't read or had difficulty reading? Think about the struggles children have in school if they have problems with reading. Just about everything in school involves reading.
Fox, a best-selling children's book author and former professor of literacy education, has written an informative and entertaining book about the how and why of reading to children, beginning in infancy.
I think I feel so strongly about this, not only because of my 20-plus years working with children in libraries and having raised one son (now 18 years old), but because over the Christmas holidays I spent time with four children ranging from 18 months old to 7 years old. It was amazing to see how books and reading have affected their lives already. The 18-month-old grandson loves books and being read to, and his 5-year-old sister, who is in pre-kindergarten and likes books, is intrigued with writing words.
The two year old granddaughter can already identify many letters of the alphabet. And my 7-year-old niece, who is in first grade, is the most amazing reader. Now, of course I think these children are all above average (not that I'm the least bit prejudiced), but what these children are, is very lucky. Lucky to have parents that have been reading to them since they were babies.
Mem Fox is a passionate believer in the power of reading aloud to children and in a person's ability to "change the world, one page at a time." Fox relays many wonderful stories about the interaction between adults and children that have come about merely through sharing books. For, of course, reading aloud to a baby or child isn't just about the reading and the book, but about sharing time together, talking and having a good time. These are points she expounds on in the text and through some delightful cartoon illustrations.
Fox shares with the reader how to make the reading time fun and relaxed, because the goal is for the children to think of reading as something that is enjoyable and not something they have to do. Fox breaks the magic of reading down to three secrets: the magic of print, of language and of general knowledge. She writes in a very easy, casual style with lots of humor while letting you in on the secrets and even includes a chapter called, "And Do It Like This" for those who feel inadequate or awkward when reading to a child. Fox also devotes a chapter to boys and reading, since boys tend to be more reluctant readers. She includes a list at the end of her book of 20 books that children love, for adults who would like some guidance to start with.
So, go ahead and make your new New Year's resolution now. Buy copies of Mem Fox's "Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever" and give them away and change your world, one child at a time.
Karen Liebert is a media specialist at International Studies Elementary Charter School in Albany. She previously worked in public libraries in five states.