I believe in reading out loud. I don’t just mean to your kids either. Everyone deserves the chance to immerse themselves in their imagination and experience the flood of creativity that comes from such an event. I am a naturally visual learner, which has its advantages and disadvantages: I understand what English teachers mean when they say “show, don’t tell” but, at the same time, learning about an abstract mathematical principle resembles something akin to a black hole. When I can sit back and listen to a good story, my mind runs out to play, and I am left utterly content. Some of the deepest and most personal experiences of my life have come when I’m sitting beside somebody reading a book aloud. By allowing the words to lap at the edges of my mind, so that the scene in the story becomes so palpable that it crosses the border between fiction and reality, I am able to relax and envelope myself in the story.
I first heard a story read out loud from my dad. My relationship with my dad exists as a contrast of stereotypes: he hugs me every time I see him and tells me he loves me every time I leave, but when I tell him about the ‘A’ I received on a final paper, he will simply smile and shake my hand. He owns a condominium on the island of Hawaii, his personal contribution to that robust American dream, and we vacation there every spring break. What excites me about our trip does not involve sunny beaches, macadamia nuts, or bikinis, but rather the opportunity to get some quality reading time in with my dad. We always sit in the same spot. The two chaise-lounges located on the side of the patio provide the perfect amount of temperate breeze and delicate silence for reading. My dad likes to read classics: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Treasure Island, and, by the age of 10, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
We had been making our way through the Lord of the Rings when we finally finished the epic in Hawaii. As we neared the final chapter, I was jerked out of my imagination by my dad who had suddenly stopped reading. I soon realized that my dad had ceased reading because he was crying, and he couldn’t continue the story. What I had never really thought about until then was that I wasn’t the only person who experienced such a strong emotional connection every time I listened to a book aloud. I had never seen my dad cry before, but I wasn’t surprised, I was crying too. In that moment, my dad and I ceased listening to an author’s story about a fantasy world and instead found that story within ourselves. Sounding out the letters that made the syllables that made the words of Tolkien’s epic took me far beyond Middle Earth; it took me into myself and brought me closer to my father.