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Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

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In this revised and updated edition of Reading Magic, bestselling author and literacy expert Mem Fox reveals the incredible emotional and intellectual impact reading aloud to children has on their ability to learn to read.

With passion and humor, Fox speaks of when, where, and why to read aloud and demonstrates how to read aloud to best effect and get the most out of a read-aloud session. She discusses the three secrets of reading, offers guidance on defining and choosing good books, and — for this edition — includes two chapters on boy readers and phonics, a foreword, and a list of "Twenty Books That Children Love."

Filled with practical advice, activities, and inspiring true read-aloud miracles, Reading Magic is a turn-to classic for educators and parents who would like to know more about how children learn to read — and how we can instill in them a lifelong love of books.

ISBN-13: 9780156035101

Media Type: Paperback(Second Edition, Updated and Revised)

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 07-07-2008

Pages: 208

Product Dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

MEM FOX is the author of many acclaimed books, including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Possum Magic, Koala Lou, Time for Bed, and, for adults, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She lives in Adelaide, Australia. JUDY HORACEK is the creator of the cartoons in Mem Fox's Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She also writes and illustrates books of her own and creates cartoons that are featured regularly in national magazines and newspapers in Australia. She lives in Dickson, Australia.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Foot Book Miracle

In 1975 our daughter, Chloë, came home from school in a state of excitement and said, "I can read!" She was four years old and had been at school for two weeks. We smiled indulgently as parents do when they think their child is cute. Read? She had to be joking.

She ran to her room and came back with The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss, one of her favorites at the time, and read it to us word for word, with expression. We were beside ourselves.

But could she really read? We had read that book to her so many times, we thought she might have memorized it. We hesitated, not wanting to dampen her wild enthusiasm, then bravely opened the book at random to see if she could read a page by itself, without reciting the whole book by rote from the beginning. She read that page, and another page at random, and another.

At the time, I was a college professor teaching drama. I knew nothing about the teaching of reading. In my eyes I was "only" a mother. I rushed to Chloë’s school the next morning and told her teacher what had happened.

"What did you do?" I asked, agog. "What method did you use? It’s a miracle!"

"I didn’t do much," she said. "How could I? She’s only been in my class for two weeks. You must have read to her often before she came to school."

"Of course," I said.

"Well, there you go," said the teacher, as if that were that.

From that moment I became fascinated by the benefits of reading aloud. The seeds were sown for a change in my teaching career—out of drama into literacy. If reading aloud had had such a powerful impact on my child’s life and on her ability to learn to read, I felt I had no business keeping it a secret. I had to spread the word.

Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve learned a great deal more about how children learn to read and write and about the many other positive effects of reading aloud to children. I now travel the world, talking to parents, teachers, librarians, and booksellers, urging everyone I meet to read aloud to the children in their lives—and explaining why. I speak with the authority of an international literacy consultant and the intensity of a writer, but I’m most passionate when I speak as an ordinary mother. Reading aloud to my daughter was a fabulous experience. We bonded through all sorts of marvelous books. We came to know and love each other better through the variety of stories we shared. I hadn’t realized that reading aloud regularly would mean Chloë would learn to read without being taught.

It was enough just to be together.

Text copyright © Mem Fox 2008, 2001

Illustrations copyright © Judy Horacek 2001

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents


Foreword xi

Chapter One
The Foot Book Miracle 1

Chapter Two
The Magic in Action 5

Chapter Three
Birth, Brains, and Beyond 13

Chapter Four
The Power 25

Chapter Five
Keep It Regular 31

Chapter Six
And Do It Like This 39

Chapter Seven
Getting the Most Out of It 53

Chapter Eight
The Proof 75

Chapter Nine
The First Secret of Reading:
The Magic of Print 79

Chapter Ten
The Second Secret of Reading:
The Magic of Language 87

Chapter Eleven
The Third Secret of Reading:
The Magic of General Knowledge 103

Chapter Twelve
What Happens When the Three Secrets
of Reading Come Together? 109

Chapter Thirteen
"Book! Book! Book!" 125

Chapter Fourteen
Television: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 143

Chapter Fifteen
Troubleshooting 149

Chapter Sixteen
Phokissing on Fonix 157

Chapter Seventeen
Boys and Reading 173

Twenty Books That Children Love 191

Acknowledgments 193