Friday, September 23

Reading Aloud

Recently, I have been listening to the BBC audio productions of The Chronicles of Narnia as I run. The experience has reminded me that the power of hearing great stories read aloud is an unsurpassed pleasure.

Silent reading is actually a fairly modern innovation. As late as the eighteenth century, it was thought that the best way to truly appreciate the classics was to read them aloud--all the better to relish the beauty of the words, the music of the composition, and the architecture of the ideas.

In books like the Waverly novels or Shakespeare's plays or even something as contemporary as the Narnia tales, the sundry uses of experimental literary structures or the proliferation of odd colloquialisms make reading aloud even more advisable. You’ll quickly find that what was an obstacle when you were reading silently has suddenly been transformed into a delight. Unfamiliar phrases, peculiar historical references, and odd vocabulary choices become all the more charming, challenging, and cheering.

Late last night I began rereading the wonderful old epic poem Marmion. Though I was alone in my library, I could not help but break the silence of the night to read the sonorous tones of Sir Walter Scott's brogue aloud. What a perfect way to end a long and wearying day.


Craig Dunham said...

My friend, Learner, has been reading the Narnia Chronicles to his four children (ages 6, 5, 3, and 2) at bedtime for 30-45 minutes each evening and they have been enthralled - even the younger two.

Currently, they're halfway through book three, with the goal being to finish by Christmas in time for the release of the upcoming movie.

Though it is certainly costly in terms of time and energy (it takes a lot to read well a story aloud), Learner says it's been worth it and thanks you for the reminder.

Mark said...

George, I can't help but wonder if the decline in the popularity of poetry isn't directly related to the rise of the practice of reading silently.

Laura said...

I will never forget the stories that my parents read aloud to me as a child. I especially loved the Little House on the Prairie series. It does take a lot of time and energy, but the rewards are worth it.

gileskirk said...

Amen, amen, and amen!

Vicki said...

My sister and I read the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid aloud to each other. We have also read some Shakespeares and Paradise Lost together.

Jill said...

As a (silent) reader and parent, I would like to read aloud - but I struggle with the pronunciation, particularly names and places - such as those found in Aeneid.