I come from a family that believes in reading aloud.
My dad’s childhood home had a round landing at the top of the stairs from which all the bedrooms opened. My Grannie would sit in the landing and read out loud to her four children, all snuggled in their respective beds in the various bedrooms.
One of my earliest memories is my mom sitting beside me on my twin bed while she read the entire Little House series to me late into the night, Merrick snoozing in the next bed over.
In fact, she read so much to me that year that she lost her voice entirely and never fully regained the phenomenal singing voice she had prior to that (I think it was worth it; I hope she does too).
Later, she read us classics like The Wind in the Willows and Peter Pan. We read The Midnight Fox and Redwall and Charlotte’s Web and Mary Poppins (she’s not nearly as lovely as Julie Andrews makes her out to be).
We read the first three Harry Potter books all together, but when the fourth one came out and Harry Potter was really becoming a big thing, she told us we should probably each read it ourselves as quickly as we could to avoid having it spoiled for us.
That suggestion got shouted down very quickly. We had to have her read it to us, a chapter or two a night. There was no other option.
We made it through the entire book without anyone telling us how it ended. We’d beg her to read us one more chapter and she’d agree to do so if we’d paint her toenails.
As part of our homeschooling curriculum, she read individually with each of us every day. Even through high school, she and I read classics together, alternating pages back and forth (it wasn’t until then that I realized what a different skill reading aloud is from reading silently). We read Treasure Island and Pride and Prejudice and The Time Machine (neither of us liked that one) and A Tale of Two Cities. I have vivid memories of lying on the living room floor coloring the workbook pages from my anatomy book (what a joke of a class that was) while she read Jane Eyre to me. I cried when we finished.
My dad didn’t read to us as much as my mom did, but he read aloud to us the books he most treasured from his own childhood. One of my fondest memories of my dad is him reading, just to me, The Phantom Tollbooth, a book I still count as one of my favorites. And Five Children and It and Cheaper by the Dozen.
And Bart’s mom was no different, although her reading, from what I understand, mostly took place during breakfast, rather than at bedtime. Bart tells me that when his mom was reading them The Chronicles of Prydain, his friends would ask him each morning to relay what had happened in the book that day (Bart now tells me he has no memory of this, but whatever. . . I’m leaving it in).
Bart and I have done a fair amount of reading aloud together too – we read The Screwtape Letters together when we were dating, and later The Giver. I read the last two Harry Potters aloud to him, both in a matter of days. When we were both going to school, we listened to a number of books on CD together as we drove (favorites including The Thief Lord, Skulduggery Pleasant, and the Bartimeaus Trilogy (the new book in that series is coming along with us on our Christmas trip – we both think Simon Jones ranks right up there with the famed Jim Dale as a narrator)).
Now it delights me that Ella loves being read to. If I need to plow through those last cranky thirty minutes before bedtime, a stack of books will do the trick almost every time. When we lay on the floor together and I open up a book, she starts kicking her legs and smiling as I turn the pages. She looks carefully at both sides of the page.
And in a few years when we start reading chapter books, well, I can only hope my heart is up to the excitement. I cannot wait. It seems to me that nothing is more magical than a book that has been read aloud to you.