October 11, 2012

Read Me a Story...

This morning, Stumbleupon led me to this Atlantic magazine story about the intimacy of adults reading aloud to one another. Immediately, I was reminded of my grandparents who read to each other from  newspapers or magazines, each one seated in their respective rocking chairs.

Their focus was often on the local newspaper's obituaries. I guess when you're old, you just want to check up on who's still here on this earth and who you know who has departed, but even as a child I noticed how carefully they listened as the other one read. Perhaps my grandmother would nod in recognition of a name, or maybe she'd comment on the marital status or location of the deceased's children, but I was aware of the sense that the two of them were satisfied with the fact that both of them were still on this earth together, and that all of their children were safe and accounted for.

I regularly read aloud to my children when they were young, There was nothing sweeter than having them snuggle up against me as I read to them, and as their fluency and confidence increased with their own reading skills, they were happy and proud to read to me (though the snuggling became a less frequent occurrence as they grew into chapter books). The Boy and I read several of the Harry Potter books aloud to each other, taking turns when we'd get to a new chapter. We didn't pronounce Hermoine Granger's name correctly until I heard it spoken aloud on TV, and we'd stumble through the pronunciation of some of the spells. We looked forward to laying in my bed for each and every chapter, and on some mornings, The Boy would try to guess what adventures would take place at Hogwarts the next time we opened the book.

I think audiobooks are wonderful. From long road trips to my average day of domestic servitude (and the avoidance of same), audiobooks make the tasks less tedious as I get lost inside the stories.

I often blurt out online news stories to The Mister or The Boy. It's a spontaneous event - I find a story that I think they may find interesting or funny, and I just start reading aloud. Or I'll be reading a novel and find a passage that speaks to me and I'll have this need to bring the words to life with my voice. The Boy does the same thing to me - he'll read internet stories or Facebook posts and never hesitates to regale me with any and all Muppet-related information or quotes.

I'm sure The Mister thinks that this reading aloud is just part of the 50,000 words that he estimates that I must speak each day - words that he's said he's happy to listen to as long as they're not spilled in a single session.

The Mister is quite a kidder.

I think he finds the constant chatter between The Boy and myself to be an annoying distraction - which is one reason why he retires to the bedroom to enjoy his own online pursuits in relative quiet...until I show up and attempt to talk him to death.

For some strange reason, I've found it easier to read the words of another author rather than to read my own stuff aloud - despite the fact that I am intimately aware of the words I've written (and the feelings behind them). If I do read my own stuff out loud, in my ears, my voice sounds devoid of emotion (to me, at least). I find myself rushing, eager to get to the end - and skimming over the parts that are evocative. To my ear, I sound shy and afraid, my voice lacking any flair for the dramatic or the humorous.

I wish I could read my own writings with the same emotional honesty and enthusiasm that I manage to muster for others' contributions. But I guess that's just one more question to ask my next therapist - and have no doubt, there will be a next one.

A quote from one of my favorite books:

"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" 
~ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

What's the last thing you read aloud?


  1. That is such a good idea. I hate to admit it, but I check out the obits everyday. Just to make sure I'm not in them. :)

  2. You underestimate yourself. You write very well.

    1. I don't read what I write very well...I'm nervous and use my Western Pennsylvania monotone - though in my head, each sentence is filled with emotion and meaning. I don't have the problem when I'm reading someone else's work aloud - just mine.

  3. One of my dreams is to read the Harry Potter books out loud with my son in the way you describe!! And when I read them, I always mispronouced Hermione's name. I had no clue how it would possibly sound -- I came up with HERM-ME-OWN-NEE. : )


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