On Reading Aloud

Jim always came home from the office at lunchtime. It broke up his work day and gave him a chance to relax. After a sandwich, he’d take over the computer in my office, playing solitaire. That’s when I started reading to him.

I was doing scuzz work when he sat in my computer chair one day. (A writer’s life is not all great reviews, outstanding awards, and royalty checks.) I needed to start on a teacher’s guide I was writing about a kid’s novel. I read aloud a couple chapters of Touching Spirit Bear to him, all the while underlining vocab words for a seventh grader. When Jim went back to work, I wrote a summary of the chapters, made up the vocab worksheets, and drafted questions for the comprehension quiz.

The next day, I read another two chapters to Jim. He liked the story, and I liked focusing on each word as I said it out loud. I did twentysome workbooks over several years, and it was tedious work. Breaking up into read out loud sections made it much easier.

During the time when Jim was ill and couldn’t read, I’d read our book club books aloud to him so he could still contribute at our meetings. On summer evenings we sat on our screened-in back porch while I read Moby Dick to him. (Our book club was on a kick about reading classics we’d managed to avoid.)

Years before Jim and I had crawled all over the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaling ship preserved at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. It was a frigid January day, and all reasonable people were warm indoors, but we had an itinerary. Since we were the only ones on the ship, the captain gave us a personal tour. Moby Dick meant a lot to us because we could feel the close quarters on the ship and knew exactly where on deck the fireplace was for rendering whale oil and where the storage area was for full barrels of oil.

After Moby Dick, I read a few more books to him, but now that Jim reads a couple books a week, there’s no need for me to read aloud. The other night I started on a book for my other book club (yes, I’m in two), and I said, “Jim, listen to this,” and I read him a passage. Then I read more aloud from Shock of Gray, a nonfiction book about our country aging and what that will mean to everyone, young and old, and us baby boomers in particular.

We decided I’d read a section to him each night instead of trying to paraphrase it later as I’d tell him about it, as I surely would. Reading out loud is getting me through a hard book in a fun way and giving us plenty to talk about as we apply the information to our own lives.

I’d forgotten the pleasure of reading aloud. Sure, I stumble over some words and absolutely mispronounce some others, but the words seem to float between us, and hearing the cadence and rhythm of sentences gives more meaning to them.

Why not give it a try and see what I mean?