Monday, July 13, 2015

The Loveliness of Reading Aloud

I came across this quote in an excellent article by Meghan Cox Gurdon on the joys of reading aloud. Having been given the gift of a childhood in which reading aloud took place every day, I appreciated Gurdon's passion for the subject. And now as a mother myself the article confirmed that the time I'm spending reading Little Blue Truck over and over again each day is an investment in a future time where my son will curl up next to me while we read The Wind in the Willows, The Boxcar Children, and other favorites from my childhood.

The author of the article also made several great points on the benefits of reading-aloud. In lives lived helter-skelter and rushing from one commitment to the next, making reading-aloud a priority has become increasingly difficult. Add to that the ever present allure of the internet, iPad, TV, and other screens, reading aloud can seem like a quaint and charming relic from the past. But it shouldn't be so
easily dismissed. As Gurdon states, "To curl up with children and a good book has long been one of the great civilizing practices of domestic life, an almost magical means of cultivating warm fellow feeling, shared in-jokes and a common cultural understanding." We've often talked about the power of story to connect our post-modern lives with a greater past and reading aloud to children (and young adults) is one of the most powerful ways of accomplishing this goal.

Reading aloud as a family also combats the individualizing effects of technology: "Unlike tech devices, which atomize the family by drawing each member into his own virtual reality, great stories pull people of different ages toward one another, emotionally and physically." When my 19 month-old son wants to read, he also wants to be physically near me. He's no longer a fan of sitting in my lap, but he scoots himself right next to me so that he's pressing into my side. I can't help but think that the familiarity of the story combined with the comfort of being physically near me helps him center himself in the rapidly expanding world of his toddler consciousness. And this doesn't stop when children get older. How often has reading aloud given confused teenagers an excuse to snuggle up to mom or dad? Art is replete with paintings of young loves huddled over a book and who doesn't love reading in bed with their spouse?

The article points out some very real obstacles to reading aloud. The first would be the nearly omnipresence of technology in our lives. Gurdon, while recognizing the benefits of technology, also sees its very real limitations: "IPads and audio books have their virtues, but they don’t have warm arms, they can’t share a joke, and they haven’t any knowledge of, or interest in, a particular child." The second obstacle is lack of time. It's so easy to skip over read-aloud time because its benefits can be hard to quantify. It requires more engagement than watching a movie together and, let's be honest, in the very young years, the books aren't exactly riveting! But like all investments, it's worth making. The author shares a story of a friend who was so committed to reading aloud that she would leave parties she was hosting for long stretches of time to read aloud to her children! 

I would highly recommend reading through the article, The Great Gift of Reading Aloud–I'm sure you'll find it encouraging and inspiring. 

And if you're looking for books to read aloud this summer, check out our Read Aloud Favorites series and our Summer Reading packs!

Books for Youngsters
Books for Middle Schoolers
Books for Jr. High Students
Books for High School Students

We are also offering some fun Summer Reading Packs on our website. Check them out!

This pack contains some of our favorite titles with stories of adventurous, strong girls! 

Share stories of courageous, generous, and loyal heroes to inspire your sons!

Our new 2015-2016 catalog is now available! If you want to view it right now it's available online here. And if you would like to request a hardcopy, click here.

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