Mem Fox and friends make literacy research magic happen at UniSA

By Michèle Nardelli

Australian children’s author Mem Fox Australian children’s author Mem Fox.

It’s a different kind of magic that renowned Australian children’s author Mem Fox and the Australian Literacy and Education Association (ALEA) will make happen at UniSA, when they sign up to bring some of the best international researchers in children’s literature and literacy to SA over the next five years.

The famous teacher and author is teaming up with ALEA to bring some of the world’s best children’s literature and literacy researchers to South Australia, to spearhead research at UniSA over the next five years.

Fox, ALEA and an anonymous donor will fund the Mem Fox Visiting Research Fellowship, supported by ALEA, to bring two internationally renowned researchers to work in close collaboration with UniSA researchers to broaden local expertise in children’s literature and its place in literacy development. The experts will be chosen from universities ranked in the top 100 globally.

The researchers, who will spend at least a month in SA, will also appear as keynote speakers at the ALEA annual conference and lead exclusive workshops for ALEA members, literacy educators and researchers.

While overall Australian literacy levels are some of the highest and most stable globally, there continue to be challenges for students from remote and isolated communities, those from non-English speaking and economically marginalised groups.

With a career spent in teaching and writing, Fox’s passion for the importance of children’s literature as key to literacy is boundless.

Long an advocate for the emotional and educational benefits of reading to children, she is deeply interested in furthering research into both the benefits and barriers to literacy.

The visiting professors in literacy are being supported by UniSA’s Visiting Research Fellowships Scheme, which, in partnership with industry and the community, will see 100 Visiting Fellows welcomed at the University each year, over the next five years.

UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Enterprise, Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington says the goal of the scheme is to enhance expert collaborations so that South Australia can benefit from connecting with some of the world’s leading researchers.

“This scheme runs across every discipline at the University, where we hope to partner with business and the community to support collaborations with the world’s best,” Prof Hughes-Warrington says.

“As a researcher myself, I know how collaboration with national and international peers provides broader perspectives and produces better and more powerful research outcomes.

“Bringing top research fellows from around the world to Adelaide to work with my UniSA colleagues—many of whom are themselves world-leaders in their field— will supercharge research and deliver benefits globally.

Book cover: Possum MagicPossum Magic written by Mem Fox and Illustrated by Julie Vivas

“Mem has inspired the world with her stories and dreams for reading as a shared experience.

“Just as Hush became visible in Possum Magic through her adventures, this global initiative will further illuminate the critical role literature has to play in community.

“Having the support and investment of amazing people like Mem Fox and organisations such as ALEA for this important research scheme is fantastic because it underpins our commitment to knowledge and discovery.”