I believe in reading aloud.
Audio books can certainly be more convenient. Reading to yourself, especially reading an entire thick novel in one sitting, can be more efficient. But something about reading aloud has always been more fulfilling.
My mom, the children’s literature guru of the family, read up to forty stories a night to me when I was little. She started with picture books, full of preschool adventures, animal friendships, and life lessons compacted in the margins of watercolor illustrations. As I grew older, she began integrating more mature books, recounting Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? alongside Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by the time I was six. I lapped it up.
Now, almost ten years later, I mostly read to myself. With a full high-school homework load, club commitments, and the usual strain of teenage life, I have much less time to read for pleasure. Vacations and weekdays offer the occasional opportunities to curl up on the couch and devour novels cover to cover, but they’re too few and far between. So my mom and I supplement them.
My mom reads to me every school morning, just for ten minutes or so. Neither of us has time to sit down and devote much more time than that anymore. It takes us months to finish a decent-sized book, but we keep it up. We set aside the corny, overly-angst-riddled tales of woe; we set aside books devoid of dialogue and books plagued with pages of description reminiscent of Dickens. We lose the books under my bed and find them two weeks later among fist-sized dust bunnies; we find long-awaited books waiting for us on the request shelves at the library and mournfully lose them again when they can’t be renewed. We squeeze in five minutes as I fold laundry or grab books out of the car to read before a play starts.
Audio books just don’t cut it. They’re read-aloud Lunchables, the time-saving substitutes that never taste as good as their homemade counterparts. Strangers tell the story, sometimes mumbling, seldom inflecting the right syllables or changing their voices to match the various characters.
Someday, when I have children, I will put them on my lap and read Max and Ruby. I will make Ruby’s voice bossy and exasperated; Max’s terse replies will be properly boyish. Then, when they grow up, they will pick up The Giving Tree and read it to their children. And I’ll have time to read with my mom again.
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