Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reading Aloud


Ben was recently reading something about reading aloud to children (ironically, silently to himself, not aloud to Zosia). Apparently, many parents stop reading aloud once children can read on their own. And according to the educator whose book Ben was reading, there are huge benefits in continuing to read aloud to your older children-- they get a sense of the way that a longer, more complicated story can come together; they learn to process stories that are read aloud; and it's a special time between parent and child.

It's funny, because I feel like I've made this discovery on my own, but not through reading to an older child but reading aloud with Ben. One special thing that we've done throughout our marriage has been periodically reading a book aloud. Since, as a general rule, we don't watch tv in the evening (this is modified during football season ;-), we have lots of time to spend together. And reading good books aloud together is interesting, funny, entertaining.

There are a lot of benefits I've found for myself in processing books in this slower, more intentional way. When we read aloud, I catch all sorts of details that I miss when I speed-read on my own. Saying each word aloud, allowing it to fill the space that a silent house creates, gives it an intentionality and fullness that silent reading never provides. When I'm reading with Ben, one added bonus is that since the two of us posses incredibly varied knowledge bases, I can often ask him questions about things that I don't understand, words that I haven't heard before. And I can share special insights that I have, too.

One of my fondest memories is reading Miss Marple books aloud with friends in a summer cabin while on vacation. We all fell in love with Miss Marple, and to this day posses a special fierce loyalty to her. There has been no better Halloween costume than when one friend dressed up as Miss Marple the following year. It gave us this beautiful shared experience, jointly captured our imaginations, and was much more bonding than watching a movie together (even though we did continue our bond by watching Miss Marple on PBS).

Some of the books that I've loved reading aloud, either with friends or with Ben, have been Agatha Christie books, Little Children, Little House on the Prairie books, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Atonement, and The Shipping News (which is what we're reading right now).

What have you enjoyed reading aloud?

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