I learned to read books out loud after going on a vacation with my grandparents and listening to Grandma read books to Grandpa all the way through Nevada and into California. I spelled her off every hour or so, but was frustrated by how difficult it was to keep a steady reading pace, pronounce words correctly, and keep some emotion and excitement in my voice. Those first attempts were horrible, but Grandpa and Grandma were patient with me. After that trip, I realized I needed to practice reading out loud so I could improve my abilities in that area. So I read to neighborhood dogs, to my cat, to my little brothers, and eventually to other children, and finally to my own. Now my own children are growing older and don’t have the time to listen to stories every night as they fall asleep. I usually find myself in bed before they do, anyway! I am happy that my job as a children’s librarian gives me lots of opportunities to read out loud to kids. I would miss that time with books a lot if I weren’t in this position.
My situation with my maturing children and their evolving bedtime habits leads me to three questions: how often do other grown-ups read out loud, how can a person cultivate the skill of reading out loud, and at what age does a person grow out of the desire to hear stories read aloud? Here are some musings I’ve had about these questions.
First: how often do most grown-ups read out loud over the course of a week? People may have the sometimes intimidating assignment to read a scripture or a passage out loud during a Sunday School class or maybe there might be a need to read something out loud in a work setting, but there are actually very few opportunities for grown-ups to read out loud. Certainly parents of young children who read stories at bedtime and throughout the day have a chance to read aloud quite often.
So how can a person learn to read aloud with more ease? I found for myself that practice is the best way to improve in reading out loud. I have a dear friend who lives in Iowa and has recently retired from her career as a library director. When her friend, Betty, had surgery and couldn’t read for a couple of weeks, my friend took books to her house and read out loud to her as she recuperated. It was such fun that they have continued reading out loud to each other, even though Betty is perfectly able to read on her own again.
This leads to my last question, about how long people still enjoy hearing stories read to them. I think people of all ages like to hear stories! My children don’t have the time or schedule to allow me to read to them every night anymore, but this doesn’t mean they don’t listen to books. Every morning while I am making breakfast, my youngest son, age 13, curls up in front of the heater and plays audiobooks over the computer so we can all hear the stories. Right now the book he is playing is Knucklehead! by Jon Scieszka. But at night he likes to listen to stories as he falls asleep, and so he has downloaded Mockingjay onto his MP3 player to hear as he goes to bed. He still listens to books even if the reader is not me. And of course we always have a book on tape or cd playing when we have to go on a car trip.
So I wondered, how do you find books to listen to, or read out loud? If your children think they’ve outgrown the listening stage, how do you ever survive through a long car drive, or while you’re getting ready for school and work in the morning? Also, I find that one of the best things about listening to a story, especially one I’ve checked out as an audiobook, is that the narrators are often wonderful and engaging. What are some of the ways you have continued to read out loud after your children have grown? And do you have any recommendations of awesome audiobooks to share? Please do!