Some of my best memories are of books being read aloud. When my sister and I were younger, we were homeschooled, and as we chowed down on grilled cheese sandwiches at lunchtime, my teacher (mom) would read to us. I worked out pronunciation and learned to love the sound of words by reading Robinson Crusoe out loud. When I moved away for school, Tuesday nights I’d Skype with a friend, and we’d read P.G. Wodehouse to each other. Studying abroad in Oxford, three of us chipped in for Terry Prachett’s Raising Steam and camped out on a bed to read with hot chocolate or tea. All of these moments are special, tied together with two of the most important things in my life: good books and good company.
These are just some examples from my life, but I’d like to give you three reasons you should start reading aloud today.
How many times have you gotten a book recommendation from a friend and didn’t read it? How many times did you renew it from the library? How many times have you actually bought the book but it languishes sadly on your shelf? If you read together with friends, you automatically have accountability when it comes to getting it read because everyone will be there when it’s happening. There is strength in numbers—you can embark on a joint literary adventure and check off some of those must-reads.
I finally got around to reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens this way, and even re-read The Hobbit.
Everyone Gets To Be In On The Action
Reading aloud is something everyone can do. Some may be better at voices or characterization, but anyone can tell a story. In fact, the more you do it, the better you become. So let everyone have a go. Pass the book around, switching between chapters or even paragraphs if you like.
Reading is often thought of as a solitary activity, but if you read aloud, a whole room of people can join you. Together, you can experience the narrative’s twists and turns, react in real time to dramatic reveals or witty one-liners. Rather than having to justify why you need a whole box of tissues, everyone can mourn that character’s death with you. Instead of chuckling to yourself in the corner of the couch and then having to explain what was so funny (which is never quite as good), laugh about it with others. You might even get an inside joke out of it.
Share What You Love with Others
Reading is a special act—a journey and transformation all at once. When you read a book out loud, you can take a road trip with your best friend or visit fantastic worlds with your children. Granted, it’s slower than reading on your own, but when you read out loud, you’re letting the words off the page and giving them time to sink into your mind. So much of literature is filled with beautiful, thought-provoking language. If reading silently is like wandering through the Louvre, hearing them is like having a platter of chocolate covered strawberries, clover honey on toast, and cake delivered right to you.
Even if some of your friends aren’t born readers, I’d encourage you to try this anyway. Reading aloud is a great way to introduce people to something you love that they might not have tried for themselves. As mentioned in point two, anyone can do this, and it’s a great way to spend time with the ones you love. It’s like watching a movie together, but with the added benefit of friends playing the roles. Each reader gets to determine how the characters sound, how they talk to each other. And after each session, you can have a post-reading panel to discuss what you think is going to happen next, which parts stood out to you, or whose interpretation and delivery wins them first crack at the nachos.
Give it a try! Call up some friends, put the kettle on, and take down that book you’ve been meaning to start. Clear your throat and begin.