Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Lost Art of Reading Aloud

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
— Emilie Buchwald 

"You may have tangible wealth untold.
 Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. 
Richer than I you can never be – 
I had a mother who read to me."
— Strickland Gillilan

I owe much of my love of reading and writing to my mother. For as long as I can remember she has read aloud to us. I can distinctly remember my first encounter with Anne of Green Gables. I complained that there was too much description, and I couldn't understand it. Yet Mama persisted in reading the book aloud to us and before long I was lost to the world in the fairy-fancies concocted by Anne Shirley in that tantalizing land of Avonlea.
Mama never stooped to reading easy books to us, and I don't think she ever skipped the hard words. She wisely surmised that we would soon learn, somehow, what the big words meant, and in the meantime they didn't matter. It was of little consequence that if we didn't understand every little detail--the beauty of the words would rub off on us anyway. That is not to say that Mama didn't have secret misgivings--she has often admitted that when she read Hans Brinker to us, she really thought it was far over our heads. Funny thing is, that is the one book I remember thrilling me to my fingertips. We turned it into a unit-study (Ah! The beauty of homeschooling!) and learned all about the queer Dutch houses on their stilts and the bustling canals instead of crowded streets. Some of my fondest, coziest memories come from snuggling up on the couch, and oh! To get that coveted spot right next to Mama where we could lean against her soft side and follow along in the book as we learned to read.
I fear reading aloud is a lost art, and yet what a pleasant pastime! It is one of those forgotten pleasures, like letter-writing, that we would do well to revive. It brings a group of people together, their thoughts, dreams, and emotions wrapped round the same story. Is there anything sweeter than experiencing a story again with a dear friend? I well know the glorious sensation of discussing a book with one of my sweet sisters in Christ, reliving the intricacies of the plot, the characters, what we thought was going to happen and what in actuality did....*happy, happy, nostalgic sigh*
I have fond dreams of someday, in my house o' dreams, reading aloud to my husband some chilly fall night when we haven't any troubles to pressure us and nothing to do but please ourselves. ;) I do hope he'll enjoy being read aloud to.
"When Mother reads aloud, the past
Seems real as every day;
I hear the tramp of armies vast,
I see the spears and lances cast,
I join the thrilling fray;
Brave knights and ladies fair and proud
I meet when Mother reads aloud."

~"When Mother Reads Aloud" Author Unknown 
I also cannot wait for the day I can gather my little chickens around me and open a book to transport them to new worlds; to vicariously experience the wondrous delight of those dear, beloved stories for the first time through my children.
But there is an art to it. The reader-aloud who halts and mispronounces words and reads in a monotone so fast it sounds like Chinese is not pleasant to listen to. If you would have interested listeners, you must be an interesting reader. Go ahead and liberate your fancy. Use accents. Choose a different voice for each character and maintain it. Read the descriptions with a soft, flowing voice and try to put the beauty of the words into your tones. Practice on your siblings! I recall reading The Hobbit aloud to my younger sisters--they loved it, after they got past their string of perpetual questions. The famous mother/sister answer I've found to be appropriate to all occasions is: "Well if you listen you might find the answer out!" :D
Here is a list of my favorite books to be read aloud as a child. Oh, thank you Mama for reading to us! :)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess by " " " 
Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johanne Wyss
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Hinds Feet on the High Places by Hannah Hunard
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes


I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud said...

I couldn't put my own thoughts on the subject in better words. I agree with it all. My own childhood experience of Mummy reading to us is the same!

I love all those books in the list, the only one I haven't read is Hinds Feet in the High Places.

The Cricket in Times Square!! That is one of the books that I recall almost every detail of though I read it just once. I was very much lost in the world of that book. :)

Have a good day! :)

Maria said...

My mom read aloud to us too (she still does, actually) and I can recognize lots of the books from your list that she read to us! And with her their was no chance of not being an interesting reader! A long time ago Mum stopped reading really exciting books to my older, siblings, because the way she read them aloud made them too scary.

Maria Elisabeth

P.S. I'm very, very happy aobut winning that contest. Thank you, dear; and that box is lovely!

Horse Lover said...

I love to read out loud! Me and my sisters read books together quite often before we go to bed.

Always Narnian said...

We LOVE reading aloud-it's such JOLLY fun!!!!!!