Reading Aloud is Alive and Well

In today’s New York Times, Verlyn Klinkenborg — the man whose last name sounds like a fantastical contraption created by the villain in a picture book for children — has a lovely article entitled Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud.

I happen to know that many parents, including most homeschoolers and unschoolers, read aloud to their little ones. The homeschoolers and unschoolers are, I think, more likely to continue the activity as their children grow older.

The way it’s done at home, with your loved ones, is nothing like the way some of us remember it in school: counting the paragraphs to determine which one would be yours to read as the teacher went around the room, feeling unlucky if your paragraph was really long, enduring the boredom as the teacher called on each child in order to take a turn, feeling the embarrassment of the poor readers and the pride of the “good” readers, wondering where you fit in.

Here at our house, I read aloud every night. Mr Klinkenborg is right about how “reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words.” For the person doing the reading and for those listening, it’s a completely different experience than reading silently. Although I am technically the performer, the feeling is one of group performance. We’re all in the book together. It isn’t better than reading to oneself, just different.

When you read to yourself, the soul of the book communes with your soul internally, as if you and the book were connected by an IV drip. When you listen to a book read aloud, the soul of the book dances around your dining room on its way to your soul. It reveals things, such as what Klinkenborg calls “the rhythm of language,” in a very visceral way.

If your family reads aloud, keep doing it. If your family does not read aloud, give it a try. You can read Dr. Seuss or Dickens or a witty newspaper column. Just push some words out into the atmosphere of your home: literature as air freshener.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    sunnymama said,

    What an interesting article! Thanks for linking to it. I do remember counting the paragraphs at school and how uncomfotable the whole situation felt. Your post and the article have given me much to think about and I intend to do a lot more reading aloud now, not just children’s books to sunnyboy but other books too. Thanks 🙂

  2. 3

    Cristina said,

    I smiled as I read this. We love reading to each other! And tomorrow happens to be our monthly storytelling group at the library. I can’t imagine being amused by a section in a book and not finding one of my children or my husband to share it with!

    Excellent article! “Literature as air freshener” LOL!

  3. 4

    Karen said,

    Great post! When my 8-year-old was in school, he hated reading aloud because the pressure was on to ‘perform.’ As a homeschooler, we can’t stop him from reading to us – from the comics, the paper, the book he is reading. Now, the focus is on communication, not control – and that has made all the difference for him.


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