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An audience with author Mem Fox
Everyone has a favourite Mem Fox book, don't they? Whether it is the best selling classic Possum Magic, the hugely popular Where is the Green Sheep? or one of the other dozens of books written by this beloved Australian author. There is certainly a long list of favourites to choose from. My favourite book to read to my own children when they were young was Time for Bed, with its soothing and rhythmic tones and exquisite Jane Dyer illustrations.
So when I came across an invitation to a free community presentation by Mem Fox at Thomas Hassall Anglican College in south west Sydney I jumped at the chance. Mem had been invited by the school to share her wisdom about the value of reading to children and to promote her latest picture book I'm Australian Too.
Mem is highly qualified to speak about the importance of reading. Apart from being a successful and much-loved children's author, Mem Fox also has a background in education, having lectured at Flinders University for 24 years before retiring as Associate Professor of Literacy Studies. In her role at Flinders University Mem would often be instructing teachers on how to teach reading to their students.
Thomas Hassall students sharing the joy of reading with Mem Fox (Image supplied)
Yet her most important advice about reading and literacy is not for teachers, but for parents. That advice is simple - to read as much as possible with your children in the years before they start school. She explains that reading to your children from birth will do more for your child's literacy levels than anything done by a teacher once they actually start school.
During her animated presentation Mem read a number of her books aloud to the audience including her newly released title, I'm Australian Too. This book was written in 2014 in response to the immigration debate in Australia at that time and the tone of racism that surrounded it.
Despite its origins, I'm Australian too is not a critical or an angry book. It is actually a celebration of the diversity of multicultural Australia and the positive effects of inclusion. It uses rhythm and rhyme, includes beautiful illustrations by Ronojoy Ghosh and is recommended for children aged five years and over.
During her reading of this book Mem shared a secret with us - the last two verses of the book can be sung to the tune of Advance Australia Fair, which she demonstrated, and which ensured there was not a dry eye in the room.
Mem also read another of her new books, Ducks Away, which is for a younger audience of around two years and up. It is the story of a mother duck crossing a bridge with her brood and includes counting, repetition and a problem to solve. With simple illustrations by Judy Horacek it is sure to become another one of our favourites.
Mem finished off the presentation with a spirited reading of Where is the Green Sheep?, much to the delight of the young children in the room.
During the presentation Mem shared her top reasons to read aloud with your children:
because children will find it easier to learn to read at school if they have been read to by parents before starting school
for fun and to bond with your children and nurture a connection during reading together
because reading introduces children to a higher language than the spoken word
because reading together will stimulate all of a childs senses resulting in brighter children and create a love of reading for life
After the presentation some Thomas Hassall Anglican College students were lucky enough to have Mem Fox read a story to them. Parents were also able to meet with Mem after the presentation for a book signing.
Book signing with Mem Fox (Image supplied)
With her bright and animated presentation Mem Fox certainly charmed the audience and persuaded us that with the right books reading together can create in young children a love of reading for life.