Thursday, September 3, 2009


"Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words," says writer and teacher Verlyn Klinkenborg (love that name), in a New York Times article this past May 16 entitled "Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud."

"To read with your lungs and your diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone," he continues. "The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading." 

In the days of those reading salons, there was of course no radio or TV, books were more expensive, and I suspect literacy rates were lower -- so reading aloud was a way of sharing stories. But to read aloud is also a way of reading more deeply into the language and feeling of stories. Klinkenborg concludes by suggesting that "our idea of reading is incomplete, impoverished, unless we are also taking the time to read aloud." 

Re-reading is another way of savoring books and language. Klinkenborg writes in another article later in the month, "Some Thoughts on the Pleasure of Being a Re-Reader," that "part of the fun of re-reading is that you are no longer bothered by the business of finding out what happens," but instead can pay closer attention to the language. He adds that, while the books may stay the same, the reader is always changing, seeing the characters and plots and themes anew each time.

How about you, readers? What stories or books do you read aloud, or re-read, and what has it done for you?

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