photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/vimages/2910864052/
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/vimages/2910864052/

Every night when I am home (which is most nights), after dinner we read as a family. This isn’t a new tradition – my wife and I have read to each other out loud on car trips for years even before we had kids – and it’s a ritual that takes time. In an average book you can read a couple of chapters a night, which turns out to be 20 to 40 pages or so. Depending upon the print or your available time you might be limited to more like 25 pages. (Even when certain people ask you to read “just a few more pages, please.”)

When a book spans several hundred pages and you can only get through 100 pages in a week (or perhaps more if you manage to get together every night as a family), you spend more time with the characters than if you read to yourself. Favorite series stay alive for months at a time and the biggest problem we typically have is that we have a pile of books we’d like to read next, and we can’t read them all at the same time. We need to negotiate as a family and compromise on a book or a series of books that sounds promising.

Reading stories over a long period of time and deciding what to do as a group are great skills for life. And listening is a great lesson to a kid (and to the parents) on the importance of presence. When we read, we all pay attention to the story. That means no phones, no other books (perhaps some doodling, as that stimulates the brain in different ways) and the person who’s reading gets to drive the pace. Sometimes I read, sometimes my wife reads, and sometimes the kids read. And we all listen as the stories unfold.

Stories are also a great vehicle to discuss other things that are going on in our lives. When we look through the lens of a particular character or discuss that character’s motivations when faced with a challenging situation, we’re also thinking, “what would I do if I were there? What would I do right now?” I often find myself having a mental conversation with a favorite character when I’m facing a new situation, as I imagine how the character might react.

In this age of always-on everything, what’s the point of reading out loud? Merely everything. Reading aloud forces you to pay attention to the story at hand. Reading aloud is great practice for conveying many different kinds of stories to a group. And reading aloud among family and friends is something you really can’t do online, at a concert, while playing video games, or while doing whatever it is that we do to content ourselves most of the time. Read and you open your mind to many new worlds. Read aloud, and you open yourself up to a shared experience that deepens over time, welcoming new and old characters into your life in interesting ways.

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4 thoughts on “Try Reading Out Loud

  1. I *adore* being read aloud to and I’m honing my reading aloud skills with my fiance in preparation for The Future. I was in college when the last Harry Potter books came out and had my dad read them to my mom and I over the summers. They are super intense to listen to! Maybe it was the suspense and the fact that everyone else read the books the same night they got them, but I remember having to read parts myself to ‘catch up’ and the differences in how it felt to read it to myself vs. listen to it read aloud.

  2. That’s really interesting and certainly something that needs to happen more often in our schools. TV news was always read aloud with precision “back in the day”. Doing something like this would also be great in teaching people how a character or situation SHOULD sound based on its context and pace.
    To this day I cannot read quickly in my mind. I’ll always assign its proper pauses and imagine the book’s inflection/intonation by choosing a voice I know of or just simply making one up in my mind. For the longest time I, as well as my teachers, thought that this was a problem. Some even called it a learning disability! But now I am starting to see its benefits unfurl almost every day as I love to give speeches, my editing skills are far better (granted it’s more along the lines of professional documents I need to look through at my job instead of my blogs/sites), I can explain things in better detail, and people actually like to hear my reading!
    Great write Greg! Keep pushing for things such as this and I guarantee we’ll have a generation of kids and adults able to read and comprehend far better than what we have now. WOO!

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