Story time: joys of reading aloud

Jenna Viets


There’s something special about reading a story aloud.

Throughout my childhood, my parents were always reading to me. It started with Dr. Seuss and fairytales, then books like “Old Yeller” and the entire Laura Ingalls series.

The pinnacle was when my dad read “The Chronicles of Narnia” to my brother and me for the first time. When we were older, he read it to us twice more, as well as C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.

When I was 16, on a road trip from North Carolina to Missouri, I discovered my own love for reading aloud. I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” to my family, and I loved every bit of it. I got so into the story, and was able to appreciate subtleties I had breezed over before.

Reading aloud forces you to interact with a story in a new way, to slow down, take your time and consider each little element. How much weight does this sentence or word deserve? What inflection — what tone — did the author intend here?

How can I most accurately represent this character, is his or her pitch high or low, the quality smooth or gravelly, the pace quick or unhurried?

Through voice, the reader is able to bring the characters and the story to life. Reading aloud is a challenge, but it’s one I love.

There’s the challenge of maintaining consistency — remembering and re-creating each character’s unique voice. There’s the challenge of reading ahead to anticipate what is coming, who is speaking and then preparing to intone properly while still focusing on the sentence at hand. It stretches the mind and, at least for me, brings much joy.

After “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I read my family one of my childhood favorites, “The Wind in the Willows.” I had lots of fun with that one — its cast of eccentric characters and their wild exploits gave so much room for creativity.

On another long trip, I read myself “The Great Divorce” on the way there and was so profoundly impacted by it that I simply had to share it with my family, so I spent the drive home reading it aloud to them and still only caught half of the incredible truths C.S. Lewis explores.

I only recently realized how much I’ve missed reading aloud. There isn’t much opportunity for it at college. Sometimes I read aloud to myself. Jane Austen is much easier to follow at the slower vocal pace, but it’s not the same when it isn’t shared with another.

If you do not have a book to read aloud, check out the little nooks and crannies Troy has to offer.

On the second floor of Patterson Hall is a bookshelf filled with books about cultures; upstairs in Smith Hall is a shelf constantly filled with different books.

So, I have a suggestion: get with a friend or two and read your assigned books to each other — in a sense, performing them.

I have a feeling that you’ll get a lot more out of each book and it will almost certainly be a lot less drudgery and a lot more fun.

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