Reading is a different experience when it is done on one’s own as opposed to a book being read aloud. The very words “reading aloud” can evoke horrible memories of “popcorn” reading in class and being afraid of stumbling over or mispronouncing a word, but being read to is a different story altogether.
Some of my fondest memories from childhood are my mom reading me and my sister The Chronicles of Narnia. I fell in love with Mr. Tumnus, the Pevensie children, Aslan, Prince Caspian, Reepicheep, and so many other characters and places thanks to her introducing us to those wonderful adventures. A few years later, when I was old enough, I revisited Narnia on my own, and it was an equally enchanting experience.
Hearing stories aloud can have pitfalls, too. In third grade, my teacher read us Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Much like Viktor Krum, she wasn’t sure how to pronounce Hermione’s name, and went for “Hermy-own” instead. I thought that was how her name was pronounced until the following year, when the movie was released. My fourth grade class somehow finagled a field trip to see the film, and when they said “Hermione” onscreen for the first time, my brain went, “Ohhhhhhhhh. That’s how you say it.” I had already read the second book by then, so had gone through two books with the wrong pronunciation, and it still took me a bit to shake it when Azkaban came out.
My love for sci-fi also began with reading out loud, as my (either 3rd or 4th grade teacher… I can’t remember) read A Wrinkle in Time to my class. It’s not a book I would have ever picked for myself. Hearing the descriptions out loud instead of in my head made it so much easier to imagine the characters and the events, and it made me interested to seek out the remaining books in the series, though it was admittedly much later. I don’t even know if they’d read a book like this in classes these days, but I hope they still do.
I think the most memorable “read aloud” experiences for me is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, which we read during class in fifth grade. The simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking 1961 tale of a boy and his two hunting dogs was a unique experience because my class went through the joys and the sorrows as a collective, instead of on our own. At the most pivotal parts of the story, the class was totally rapt, listening in sheer silence as our teacher described the adventures and the close bond between Old Dan, Little Ann, and their human, Billy – and the devastation that comes with heavy, wrenching loss. I’ll never forget this story, and I know it hit me harder because it was read to me, and to my peers, instead of me reading it on my own. I probably would have skimmed some parts if I’d been reading it solo, but I’m very glad that was not the case. You can’t ignore the “sad” in books forever, and I’m thankful that I got to hear this book read aloud so I could process the emotions in a meaningful, and helpful way.
Do any fellow readers and writers have memorable “reading out loud” experiences? I’d love to know!
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