Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Joys of Reading Aloud

Focus on the Family Radio Theatre has absolutely ruined audio books for me. Not to worry, I mean that in a good way. Back when I was a kid, we lived in Washington State, where my dad used to take my brother and I to visit Mt. Rainier, and along the way we would listen to The Chronicles of Narnia.
The audio dramas were and continue to be fantastic, more so than any of the films. Why? Because each drama mirrored the books practically word-for-word. And the books weren’t just read aloud. Each character had a voice, and several scenes had music, heightening the drama or the tension. It was like watching a film without the visuals.
So it was that at eight-years-old, I fell in love with The Chronicles of Narnia, and regular audio books were ruined forever. How could I listen to one person on a CD read on an on after that? But my delight in being read to was different whenever family members or teachers read aloud. In third grade, one of my teachers read Junie B. Jones and Methuselah’s Gift to the class, and at home my dad read The Hobbit to my brother and me.
As a child, I grew to enjoy books so much that I tried to read way above my reading level even when I didn’t understand what I was reading. And today, my family continues to read aloud. Last summer, we took turns rereading the entirety of The Hobbit as a family, and every year we read the Bible together.
But not all of my experiences listening to books have been rewarding. While my brother is an auditory learner, I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. My brother can recite most of any film after watching it once, but I find it difficult to retain whatever I hear aloud.
Often times whenever somebody is reading aloud, my thoughts wander. This can even happen, believe it or not, when I’m reading aloud. While my voice is saying the words on the page, my thoughts are somewhere else completely. Talk about bizarre.
Nevertheless, I have found ways to concentrate whenever somebody else reads aloud. I fiddle with something in my hands (a slinky, an eraser, a candle, etc.) or I read along if another copy of the book is available.
Of course, I still like reading silently. I do it all the time. But there is a certain joy to reading aloud. It can bring people together into a narrative, and each story becomes a shared journey instead of a solitary one.
Coffee and stories?
What a perfect combination!
Not only is reading aloud great for readers, but it’s also beneficial to writers. Reading an unfinished draft aloud can help writers catch their mistakes, or reading a polished piece to others can be a great way for writers to share their work.
Back when I attended Evangel University, I was on staff for Epiphany, the university’s literary magazine. Once a month, we hosted Epiphany Coffeehouse in the student union where students and professors would read their original poetry, stories, or essays.
At first, the prospect of reading one of my stories in front of my peers and professors was quite terrifying. But after several months, sharing my stories with others became quite fun, and I always relished listening to works by my friends and acquaintances.
So if you’re a writer and find yourself with the opportunity to read aloud at an open mic event or at a coffeehouse, go for it! There’s nothing quite like hearing writers read their works in their own voices. You never know what kind of people you’ll meet or what kind of friends you’ll make. 
As for readers, remember that reading can be a relaxing, solitary experience, but it’s also an excellent way to spend time with others. Statistics even show that children who are read aloud to are more likely to enjoy reading throughout their lives. If you don’t believe statistics, take my own story as evidence. Who knows, you might instill the love for reading in a child or two. They’ll thank you for it one day.
Which books (if any) have you read with your family? Has reading aloud increased your delight in reading?
Literary references: C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones books, Mary Elizabeth Edgren’s Methuselah’s Gift, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and the Holy Bible.


  1. You can even read and add any dramatic effects. It can be fun!