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Meet the Author Mem Fox was born in Australia, grew up in Africa, studied drama in England, and returned to Adelaide, Australia, in 1970. She was an associate professor of education at Flinders University in Adelaide, where she taught teachers for 24 years. She has written more than 40 books for children, including Possum Magic, Time for Bed, Whoever You Are, The Magic Hat, and, most recently, Two Little Monkeys and Tell Me About Your Day Today. She has also written several books for adults, including her best-selling book for parents, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. Her picture book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes was on the New York Times best-seller list for 18 weeks in 2008–2009, and its Italian-language edition won best book for young children at the 2010 Turin International Book Festival. Her books have been translated into 19 languages. Meghan Dombrink-Green: Have you found that adults—parents and teachers—respond differently to your books than children do? Mem Fox: Yes, they do. Adults may love the book for totally different reasons from the reasons that the child loves it. For example, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge makes adults sob, but children love it for completely different reasons. It’s about a clever little boy who does great things in the neighborhood, and he’s very pleased with himself, and he finds an old lady’s memory. The adult audience is thinking about it as when parents lose their memories. They just go to pieces with that book. The book appeals to readers on two different levels. Meghan Dombrink-Green is an associate editor at NAEYC. 102 YCMeetTheAuthor_MemFox.indd 102 Mem Fox will be giving the opening keynote address at NAEYC’s Annual Conference & Expo in Atlanta on Wednesday, November 7. She will also be presenting a session on Thursday, November 8. Meghan: I heard Isabel Baker of The Book Vine for Children read aloud Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes at an NAEYC conference session a few years ago. Lots of people in the audience were familiar with the book, and they wanted to join in with her as she read aloud. There was repetition and familiar words. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how repetition works in read-alouds and how it helps children learn to read. Mem: I think that rhyme, rhythm, and repetition are incredibly important in books for small children. Repetition and rhythm probably even more than rhyme. All of those three elements are mesmerizing for a start. When children are born, they’ve been used to the mother’s heartbeat in the womb. When they’re born, they’re rocked and cradled. There is the rhythm of life itself. There’s rhythm in the nursery rhymes and songs that are sung to children very early on. And those rhythms and rhymes and repetitions morph into children’s books, which are like a bridge from spoken language to the written language. The repetition, rhyme, and rhythm in written language then morphs into more normal language. It’s like a stage of learning. I’ve said all of that as a writer, but I’m a teacher as well. As an educator, I know that if children cannot learn the skill of predicting what’s going to come next in language, they can’t learn to read. They have to know what’s coming next in a sentence. They have to expect what’s going to be the next word or the next phrase. Otherwise they might read a sentence as, “He galloped away on his house.” He or she might not know that doesn’t make sense. But a child who can read “galloped” will know that it’s going to be horse next and not house. The child can predict what it’s going to be. So a child can predict the next word and then check it with the print. Meghan: Do you have any specific ideas or suggestions about how teachers can help parents with reading aloud? Mem: Read aloud to parents. It’s the only way. Read aloud for the absolute hysterical delight of it, to have a lot of joy, a lot of fun, a lot of laughter, a lot of noise, a lot of joining in, a lot of craziness, a lot of oh-my-gosh-you’rejust-going-to-love-this-book, listen to this, it’s hilarious, read this book. Young Children • September 2012 8/1/2012 5:37:52 PM N 12AA_TIC

Meet the Author: Mem Fox

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