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on December 7, 2002
I respectfully disagree with many people in these reviews who are touting that this book is a glib solution, most especially the citation of the NRP Report!
I am a postgraduate educated Reading Specialist, and can tell you that report was compiled by numerous people who have no education on the subject of reading instruction. Also, that report is misconstrued and in schools allowed to be used as support for phonics worksheets as an isolated way to teach reading.
I don't know about you, but I didn't learn to read totally be being able to identify a picture, and writing the beginning or ending or medial sound on a blank line of a worksheet.
No, I listened. (Do those reviewers know the all too important impact of a child's listening comprehension?) I also looked at the pictures (that's called Context Clues). And I looked at word structure and vocabulary (that's called the Structural Cueing System). I made sense of what I was reading (currently referred to as metacognition).
I now remediate adolescent readers. And let me tell you - direct systematic phonics has failed them! It's because they have not made sense of their reading. What they read doesn't engage them or motivate them.
Think about it - what is your definition of reading? Do you have a scientific montage of words or is it plainly just decoding symbols to decipher meaning from the message? For me, reading is making meaning.
When children are read aloud to (as I do DAILY in my secondary remediation classes), numerous things happen in the brain. Read brain-based learning books. Then tell me how phonics worksheets are THE only and recommended way to learn. When children are read aloud to, the basis for making meaning is created.
I can guarantee you in an unscientific study that my students were NOT read to as children or even in their later lives. We may be able to get those kids past decoding in their early years - Kindergarten and First Grade - but reading aloud increases and hones listening comprehension, attention to task, and visualization - components of reading comprehension that are often overlooked.
Reading aloud creates meaning - provides motivation and engagement for kids. It is a HUGE component of reading comprehension, and should not be treated lightly.
Mem Fox does not purport ANYWHERE in this book that it is the be all and end all. She is an outstanding author who knows that fluent and fluid language is a part of the puzzle.
Readers who are looking for a quick fix and pat answers to reading difficulties - sure, yes, can look at the NRP Report, and get whatever answers they need to get.
And for those parents who perhaps misunderstand many components of reading, you really do need to consult a specialist before you make wide sweeping generalizations. For most of us, we have never given thought to how we learn to read. There are varied and enumerated reasons that a child cannot read - some of them are phonological or processing related and some of them are meaning related. For whatever reason, there is NOT just ONE answer, like NRP would have you believe.
But if you talk to any educated reading professional, he or she will tell you straight up how that report is regarded.
With the whole language vs phonics debate roaring wildly these days, I think our time is better spent -
Reading aloud to children.
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on December 14, 2001
I have read this book and all of the editorial reviews and customer reviews of this book. I have to respectfully disagree with much of what was written. Mem Fox is trying to get parents to understand the unique and positive benefits of reading aloud. I taught kindergarten and first grade for 11 years and believe me, there is a distinct difference in children who have been read to and those who have not. I live in Boca Raton, FL which has a fairly educated population and affluent one at that, and I was astounded by the number of women in my Mommies groups who did not think you should read to kids until they were three or four. So to wonder to whom Mem is writing for is ridiculous. ALL types of parents can benefit from this knowledge. There is sufficient research to suggest the benefits, but parents would not be interested in reading a research- based book. As for her taking on the wholistic vs. phonics debate, it is clear what side the reviewers are on. As a reading/writing specialist, I can assure you, Mem was not discounting phonics at all. She was merely saying that phonics alone will not make someone a good reader. There are two other cueing systems at work when people read and phonics is only a third of the process. I could spew research here but I won't. I believe she was suggesting to not make it the be all and end all of learning to read. I can assure you the children who could read by the end of kindergarten were not using phonics alone in their strategies for reading. And if you want a book with lists of books to read to kids, Jim Trelease has already written that one. Why would she duplicate that?
This book is an excellent read and I wish I had it to give to each parent who had children in my classroom. Even in kindergarten, many parents told me they had no time to read to their children. How very sad they did not understand the importance. This book drives that point home. Oh, and by the way, I recommend ANY children's book written by Mem Fox. They are among my children's most favorites. Here are just a few-- Sleepy Bears, Koala Lou, Time for Bed, and Whoever You Are...
oh, and for teachers I emphatically recommend Radical REflections- It will change your teaching paradigm for sure.
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on October 18, 2001
A Book Review of Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox (Harcourt, Inc., 2001)
Reading Magic is a passionate appeal to read aloud to children. It is also an appeal to use the power of humor, fun, and family relationships to entice the child to love reading. Throughout the book Mem Fox warns parents, the primary audience for Reading Magic, to keep reading experiences fun and stress-free.
For the most part, Reading Magic offers parents sound, passionate advice. There are a few spots in Reading Magic in which the author allows her well-placed passion for reading aloud to swamp some fairly well established facts.
Based on decades of research it appears that no matter what method is used to teach reading about 70% of children learn to read without difficulty and about 30% have some degree of difficulty, with about 15% having serious difficulty. Mem Fox implies that reading aloud will, by itself, prevent reading problems in these children. As beneficial as reading aloud is, this conclusion is not supported by research.
Like so many other books about teaching reading, Reading Magic is fine for the ~70% of children with good language sensitivities who will learn to read easily. For the 30% of children with linguistic weaknesses some of the advice is fine (Reading aloud helps all kids; Stress and anxiety are not conducive to learning). But, some of the advice is poor at best and dangerous at worst (Wait until age 8 or 9 to get help; It's a good idea to teach children to guess at words they can't quickly decode; Using decoding skills is unnecessary.). Unfortunately, it will be hard for most parents to sort out the good from the bad advice in this book. Perhaps the best guidance for parents is to seek scientifically based evidence from credible groups, such as the Report of the National Reading Panel, April 2000.
And parents should realize that no matter how emotionally compelling, case studies and testimonials are among the weakest forms of evidence.
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on October 30, 2002
I started to read this book over a cup of coffee today. Four cups (decaf!)later I completed the book. I couldn't put it down! I think this book should be given to every new parent! I read the other reviews and agree that reading aloud isn't going to work for every child. But why not try it? Why not make it a priority in your family anyhow? Even if it doesn't make your child a top reader... your child, you, your entire family, will benefit in some way by reading aloud. And it is fun! Both of our kids happen to be excellent readers (they're 10 and 7) and read well above grade level. Is it because we have always read aloud to them? Is it because we have used many of the strategies discussed in the book (even without knowing it at the time)? Who knows. For me, there is nothing like cuddling up in a comfy, warm spot, with a child on each side, reading, talking and laughing about a good book. It doesn't get much better than that!
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on January 29, 2004
As a Speech Language Pathologist and Children's Literacy Coach I can attest to the fact that reading to children is a critical element in literacy acquisition. Children must learn the flow of language and the variance and flexibility of words in order to appreciate literature and write well. Reading to children of ALL ages ( yes even middle and high school!) is critical for the development of advanced reading, writing and listening skills. What can be better than creativity and imagination being fostered during a warm, entertaining storytelling session.....with the stories coming from brilliant authors ( like Mem Fox)? I recommend this book to all my parents, my fellow teachers and to my friends. It makes a great book for new parents. It makes a great addition to any one's library who has an interest in children's literature, literacy or storytelling. Thank you Mem Fox for writing such a great book!
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on December 4, 2003
An awesome book for any parent who cares about reading to their child (ren)!! Mem provides excellent examples of simple ways to improve our time with the most important people in our lives; all in a very eloquent and easy-to-read (aloud) style.
I also loved the reference to the books for different age groups. Our 13y/o noted his favorite teacher is the one that reads aloud in the classroom!!! And I thought it was only for the under 5 crew!
Thanks MEM!
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on September 10, 2003
I loved this book. I learned how to choose better books for my daughter and I learned to take myself less seriously while reading to her and to just let go and be silly and have a ton of fun. Thank you Mem. Among my favorite books to read aloud to my 3 year old daughter are Mem's It's Time for Bed, Karma Wilson's The Bear Snored On, and The Bear Wants More and Judy Hindley's Do Like a Duck Does.
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on July 24, 2009
This is a gem of a little book that is easy and quick to read. It explains clearly and with lively little anecdotes along the way the importance and how tos of reading with young children. Mem Fox writes in an entertaining style yet the message is deeply serious and needs to be heard.
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on August 22, 2009
Mem Fox uses her educator's knowledge and her wonderful sense of humour to teach the importance of reading to young children.

A must for all expectant parents. Grandparents should buy this as a lasting gift for their grandchildren!
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on January 14, 2002
I think this author got a little carried away. I found some of her examples to be down right insulting. She read aloud to a boy for 15 minutes...and suddently he started reading. Please.
I am currently the mother of a boy in Kindergarten and a preschool girl. I have read to my son since he was 2 days old. Through hours of colic, I recited Dr. Seuss to calm us both. In his 5.5 years, I have barely missed a day reading. Although he loves to be read to, he is really struggling to learn to read on his own. And to imply, that if a parent had just read the right books, with the right tones...then it would be a piece of cake is setting up a lot of parents (myself included) for a lot of frustrationg.
Learning to read for most kids is hard. I read the entire book looking for some aknowledgement of this fact and there is none.
I love reading aloud to my kids, to their classes, to anyone who will listen but this book just goes too far.
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