When legendary Aussie children’s author Mem Fox gives you advice on choosing books for kids, you listen.
The author of classic books, such as Possum Magic and Where is the Green Sheep?, can now add ‘proud grandmother’ to her list of creditials and she’s noticed a few things when it comes to choosing books for modern children.
“You have really got to look at the book and see that it is current,” she says, down the line from her home in South Australia.
Mem makes the point that kids want to read about the things they see around them and it is important not to choose a book that is too old-fashioned and boring.
“Although the classics are never too old-fashioned,” she adds.
I’m interviewing Mem to help her spread an important message this Christmas – she is urging parents to give their children the life-long gift of reading by popping a picture book in the Christmas stocking.
I’ve already done this and – by total coincidence I swear – it is Mem’s Where is the Green Sheep? that will be unwrapped by my little girl on Christmas morning. Her brother will be getting a copy of Where the Wild Things Are.
So what are some of Mem’s favourite modern books for modern kids?
“At the moment, my three favourites are, Monkey & Me, I Want My Hat Back and Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,” she says.
She hestitates a little though, when I ask her to name her top three classic books – there are clearly too many to choose from. A few that spring to her mind are: Green Eggs and Ham, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Dear Zoo.
I write these down for future Christmas and birthday present ideas …
Mem is urging other parents to give books as presents this Christmas too – “we could really raise the literacy levels in this country,” she says.
“Children who have learnt six nursery rhymes by age four will usually be in the top reading group by age eight,” she says.
“But children need to hear three stories per day before they can begin to learn to read, even if it’s the same story over and over again.”
So the big question is – how to do you get your children to love reading?
“You have to introduce the book with absolute excitement,” she says.
“Then when you read it you just have to be happy. Have a smile in your voice and a twinkle in your eye!”
She says that books stay with you – especially those you read when you were a child.
“I was born in Melbourne but grew up in Africa so my mother read the whole of Snugglepot & Cuddlepie to me and the whole of Blinky Bill!”
– interview and article by Bub Hub editor Rebecca Galton