Breathing Life Into the Printed Word

I read to our kids every night when they were very young, and listened to them read aloud as they were learning their words. But as they became more accomplished in their reading, we all became more private readers.

Sometimes my teenage daughter would get nostalgic for bedtime stories, and she’d ask me to read a favorite, like Goodnight Moon or a dramatic presentation of Green Eggs and Ham.

As a variation on this one night, I read her the short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. She loved it, and it prompted questions and discussion for a good week.

Lately, though, we’ve all gone back to being private readers.

As part of my daily Zen and Taoist reading, I decided to read aloud to myself. As a result, I’ve rediscovered how much more power the printed word has when it is given a voice.

I can be moved by something I read silently, but it’s another experience altogether when I get a catch in my throat reading something aloud that has really hit home, when the words resonate through my body and not just my mind.

With this reawakened appreciation for the spoken word, I asked my son if he’d like to make some time before bed so I could read to him. He really liked the idea, and we decided to read The Tao of Pooh. (I told him if he liked it, we could also read The Te of Piglet. He then asked if there was a Ching of Eeyore.)

I forgot that The Tao of Pooh — despite being based on the classic A.A. Milne children’s books — is really written more for adults. But my son has really taken to it, suggesting he read the actual Milne excerpts and I read the rest. To my endless delight, he’s grasping the Taoist ideas, too.

I’m going to suggest something similar to my daughter. Since the Vonnegut piece was a hit, I’ll stick with the short stories. And if her very hectic teen schedule seems to leave little time for a bedtime story, I’ve got several volumes of Sudden Fiction and Flash Fiction.


One thought on “Breathing Life Into the Printed Word

  1. I agree – reading text aloud has a different quality (and effect) than reading silently. A wise woman I know told me once that poems should *never* be read silently, but always aloud. Since then, I have noticed how differently I related to a poem when I just read it on a page, versus speak it aloud.

    I think it’s wonderful that you have resumed story-reading with your kids; and that your son is beginning to understand some of the Taoist concepts in the Pooh text. How wonderful!

    And thank you for the leads on the short story books! I adore American short stories, and am eager to read through these texts. Yay!

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