Mama, will you read to me?
Shakespeare couldn’t top those five simple words.
Those words have filled our house to bursting. Cookie, the rascally kitty, has been climbing the curtains relentlessly for years. Puff the Magic Dragon only vacations in Honalee nowadays (he hangs out with Custard and Argus). The Pigeon tries to steal our cars, hotdogs, and cookies but stays away from our bathtub and puppies. Mike Mulligan fixes our furnace, and Katy the crawler tractor plows our street in the winter. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy (with the Beavers, of course) stalwartly defend our home from Maugrim, and Aslan himself keeps the White Witch at bay. Someone’s always underfoot, what with the hundreds and thousands and millions and billions and trillions of cats. When we eventually welcome all of Middle Earth into Ike’s world, Elrond is just going to have to get cozy with Milo the Magnificent, while Theodin will have to bunk with the Skippyjon Jones. Thank goodness we’re currently adding on a Room of Requirement.
Reading out loud has obvious benefits for my child, but the virtues don’t stop with him. Each time I read aloud, I’m becoming a richer storyteller, a better writer, and a more effective editor. When I read to my son (or to myself), my entire being is engaged in shaping words and conveying emotion. While the words aren’t mine, I’m finding the significance in each of them, weighing their right to be there. I’m training my ears as well as my eyes, even tasting the words as they come to life with my own breath.
After looking over and over a piece I’m editing, I often shut myself away to read it aloud. It’s one more trap to snare sneaky mistakes and one more tool to tinker with trouble spots. Reading aloud takes the story out of the isolated environment of my brain and allows it to be examined externally. All of the imaginary friends vying for attention in my home calm down for story time, focusing on this singular idea, giving it a chance to shine.
Every time I open a book or sit down with a manuscript, I listen for it pleading will you read to me? Whether it’s a board book or a five volume epic, a voice brings it to life. If a voice can do that with someone else’s words, I think, imagine what it can learn to do with its own.