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The pleasures of reading aloud are possibly topped only by the pleasures of being read aloud to. I imagine many of the readers of this blog spent an incredible number of childhood hours snuggled up on the couch or in bed with someone reading from the pages of a cherished book, or a brand-new library book, or an old family book finally pulled off the shelf.
The simple act of reading aloud together must trigger so many aspects of our humanity that signal to us that the world is at rights. We get the intimacy of metered voices, the vibrations of speech humming between our bodies, the shared vicarious adventures and explorations and discoveries, the naturally close physical proximity... I think there's several good reasons that my golden retriever would plop down next to us every time we read aloud as a family.
Yet we lose the pleasures of reading aloud once we grow older. Short of having another little kid around the place who deserves and yearns to be read to, why would we take the time to read a story together? Most of us read more quickly silently and alone than we can out loud, and even if you have the time and the willingness to do so, then there's the issue of what particular book to read out loud. It's just so... complicated, right?
But for just a moment, I want you to think back to those times of being read to. Think of how perfect the world was when someone held you with one arm and a book with the other. Think of how you could hear and feel the person's voice through his or her body, or through the couch cushions. Remember the change in tone that let you know just where in the story you were -- was everything lost for our hero, or was she about to triumph?
If you can recall those times in your life and not want to read aloud to someone, I'd love to donate you to science for just a while. Reading together, in my experience, is one of the most natural-feeling activities we as humans have. I highly recommend seizing someone important to you, whether it's a child or your romantic partner doesn't matter, and asking them if you'd like to read a book together. Pick your favorite book as a grown-up, find a new book at the library, or pull that old childhood favorite out from the closet under the stairs and give it a go.
My own partner and I wish we read together more often, though we're finding it easy to make time once we put a little effort into it. Our latest Halloween-themed venture -- Bunnicula -- was one of her childhood staples, and I had never read it before. After sitting down with it and three of its sequels (Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and Nighty-Nightmare), I feel like I know her and understand her a little better.
Tally one more for reading aloud bringing people closer together.