Discover more from Murray Bridge News
Mem Fox brings her possum magic to Murray Bridge Library
The bestselling children’s author has visited to read some of her stories – and remind parents and grandparents about the importance of reading in early childhood.
Locals support locals – that’s why this recent post is now free to read. Your support can help Murray Bridge News tell important local stories – subscribe today.
Reading to children before the age of five is critically important, children’s author Mem Fox says.
The Possum Magic scribe visited Murray Bridge last Thursday to enchant readers of all ages, from preschoolers to grandparents.
She read them some of her stories in a wonderfully expressive tone, like Grandma Poss incarnate: Possum Magic, The Magic Hat, Where is the Green Sheep?
Then, with children ushered off to another corner of the library for a few minutes, she shared a vital message: “Read aloud to the children in (your) lives between the ages of birth until the age of five, in a lively fashion, for about 10 minutes”.
She offered five reasons.
Reading to children makes them happy
“Reading to little kids shows them that we love them,” she said.
“We’re taking time out of our busy lives to focus on them.
“That says ‘I love you and you’re absolutely safe’.”
That was especially important for children who lived in troubled homes, she said: “when we read for them, safety and love are restored, even if just for that moment”.
Reading aloud helps children’s brains develop
Childrens’ brains were highly stimulated and grew quickly when they listened to a story, Ms Fox said.
So reading was especially important during the first 12 months of life – right from the day children were born.
“I’m always distressed when people say ‘I’ll put aside that book until she can understand’,” she said.
“The whole point is that they’ll understand by reading it.
“If we knew we could make our children clever at the same time as we could make them happy,” then why wouldn’t we?
Listening to an adult read teaches children to talk
If you read just three stories to a child each night, they would hear 1000 stories in the first year of their lives, Ms Fox said.
But better than reading hundreds of stories was reading the same story hundreds of times – even if it drove their parents and carers mad.
A toddler who heard the same story many times would gradually learn to make the word sounds themselves, even if they did not yet understand.
Children’s whole lives will be better if they start with stories
Oddly enough, rhyming stories were particularly important to children’s development, Ms Fox said.
“If kids can’t rhyme or hear a rhyme by the age of four, they’re going to have a hard time,” she said.
“If they know six nursery rhymes by the age of four, they’re nearly always in the top reading group by the age of eight.”
Conversely, children who never learned to communicate would find school more difficult, which would make it harder for them to find work later on, which could affect their health later still and so on.
Reading to children helps grown-ups, too
The fifth reason was one which had come to her only recently, Ms Fox said.
“You and I will have good days and bad days, and in one single day we’ll have some good moments and bad moments,” she said.
“We’ll have moments where we’re livid, frustrated, too tired to think.
“But as soon as we pick up a book that little kids know, their eyes are on us and our mood changes.
“Reading calms us down; our troubles fade, and we’re actually content for a moment.
“So: when you’ve absolutely had it, grab a book and read.”
The library appearance was one of the first the Adelaide author had made in almost three years, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She came out of hibernation at Adelaide Writers’ Week, earlier this month, for a celebration of Possum Magic’s 40th anniversary.
As well as having been the bestselling author of more than 40 children’s books since the 1980s, Ms Fox spent 24 years as an associate professor of literary studies at Flinders University, and was named South Australian of the year in 2004.
Her next book, Our Dragon, is due to be published in May.
More information: memfox.com.