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September 30, 2008


Kimberly Reimann

The "gap years" were the best for reading with my children! When the kids got home from school, I would have a snack ready, take the phone off of the hook, and read a few chapters aloud to them. The best compliment I ever got was from my third child, a daughter, now 24 and married: "Mom, my teacher is reading this same book to us, and it is not even fun to watch her face!"
The very sad end of an era was when my youngest and I went at midnight to pick up the 6th installment of the "Harry Potter" series, and we came home, I read about four chapters to him, then he said, "Mom, would it hurt your feelings if I just finish this one myself, I am pretty busy, and it will take us forever to get through this together!" (He was, after all, a busy High School Senior at the time!)
I have all of the books I have read to my kids listed on my Palm device, and even my 28-year-old daughter likes to scroll through them every once in a while and reminisce!


I have two young men (9 and 12) who are the grandsons of friends and "adopted" nephews. I may have to try this with them. They are very much into TV and video games, and I would love to rechannel some of that time into reading while they're with me. I am also going to pass this on to my nephew who has two small daughters. He can certainly maintain his connection with them by reading and also by recording stories for them. What great ideas - thank you!

Barb Stephens

I still read aloud to my husband, which started early in our marriage before the boys came along, partially because I can read aloud faster than he can read to himself...and because he needs to have me pay attention to him (an extrovert), while I need to get lost in a book to regain energy (an introvert)!

When the boys came along, we switched over to the Narnia Chronicles and the Little House books (I hadn't realized how funny they sometimes were from an adult perspective!) and the Lord in the Rings trilogy after reading The Hobbit (the whole thing takes a year if you're reading every night after supper...). Several comments during that period added to my enjoyment:

My oldest son, Paul, is learning-disabled and couldn't even read the comics to himself till he was 11. However, at about 13, he commented to me (the English major) that he'd noticed how to write a book like "The Lord of the Rings" - "You just set up one big problem and then bring up another smaller problem, and just as you're getting ready to solve the second problem, you add another one that has to be solved. That way, you don't get bored."

Once when we were reading a Tony Hillerman mystery aloud on our boat when the boys were in middle school, Paul's friend started talking to him about the fishing. Paul shushed him and the friend said, "I thought you hated books." My son's response: "I hate reading, but I love books!"

After our younger son, Kevin, learned to read well, he tended to disappear to play when we'd do an all-day reading marathon...and had an uncanny knack of reappearing just when things got exciting in the story, at which point he'd sit down and listen raptly till we got to another long descriptive section!

When he was much younger, Kevin came home from school and informed me that his teacher was also reading the Narnia Chronicle that we'd recently read. I asked how he liked it and he informed me that "teacher reads it like you're s'posed to...with 'spression...and different voices for each character." I asked how he liked this different way of reading (because I tend to read as fast as I can go to see what will happen next.) He responded, "I like your way better, because you read like you can see it happening!"

Finally...Paul noticed something else a number of years later. He commented that every book I read had a similarity, whether it was a Tony Hillerman mystery, a Madeline L'Engle story or series of essays, the Narnia Chronicles, Orson Scott Card's "Prentice Alvin" series...it didn't matter. Each one felt like it was being told by a storyteller, telling the group around the fire... Now, I had noticed that some books which I loved reading never made it into my pile of "need to read aloud to the family" and suddenly I understood that those books were not written with the storyteller's voice...and it is now very clear to me that this tradition needs to continue. Reading aloud to our families not only sustains our families...it continues to reward our storytellers...and that's super important.

(Note: I started learning about audiobooks when my sister became concerned about my aging and an increased danger of the results, if I were to fall while doing my favorite combined activity of walking while reading. For my 59th birthday, she gave me an IPOD and a subscription to Audible.com, and extracted a promise that I'd walk and listen, instead of walking and reading. I've learned again how much I value the storyteller's voice (both hearing it...and sensing it in the words and rhythm of the story as it develops).

Years later, Paul made a point of reading the Narnia Chronicles aloud to his daughter, who (even at 7) noticed that her dad's reading gradually got better as he progressed through the series. I asked him why he was working so hard and he said he wanted to give his children the same gift he had received as a boy, even though it was really hard to read (still).


I grew up with radio rather than television. My husband never quite believed that I had been enthralled as a young child by something called "Johnny Dollar and His Action-Packed Expense Account," so I was particularly triumphant when I found this series on tape in a small-town bookstore. That purchase led to others from radio -- many complete with the now-quaint commercials -- and these became part of our traveling tales when we took road trips with our son. (We also did a lot of reading aloud well past the age when our son was an avid reader on his own.) Imagine my delight when our newly married son asked if he could borrow those old radio tapes to share with his wife as they drove several hours from our house to their new home. Yes, sharing of stories is an important human activity!

Lori Brown

I count myself amongst some of the luckier parents who continued to read out loud to my children, even though I had no idea there are "gap" years when reading to your children slows down. When my children could read to themselves (my son began reading alone around the age of 5), we still enjoyed reading together at bedtime, well into their teenage years. I began reading out loud when my brother was ill and could no longer read for himself. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that left him legally blind at the age of seventeen. He was a senior in high school and I was in my first year of junior high when I read to him and I was introduced to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I fell in love with Middle Earth and have read these two classics out loud or to myself ever since. They are well loved and much appreciated friends in my library and I turn to them time and time again, to either share with my children (my youngest, 16, still laughs over my attempts to give each character a distinct "voice") or to soothe my soul.

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