This book was recommended on a Read-Aloud-Revival Podcast and I am really glad I picked it up. It was recommended along with the The Read-Aloud Handbook and A Sense of Wonder. It’s all about the benefits of reading, specifically, reading aloud to your children. As a book-lover and someone who enjoys the magic of a read-aloud book, please read on!
First, this book is well written. I read the first four chapters in less than two days which is very unusual for my regular reading habits and full-time teaching job. Megan Cox Gurdon has a great conversational style without compromising her work as Wall Street Journal columnist. She is a book critic, essayist, and a book reviewer since 2005.
She explains how reading aloud to children is good for their brains from the latest brain science and behavioural research. She also draws widely from life and everyday literature. She knows that Good Night Moon is a wonderful picture book that most people have read and can relate to.
So, what are the advantages of reading aloud? She has many! Reading aloud is an antidote to fractured attention spans, atomized families, and unfulfilling distractions in the tech era. She also talks about the reader’s opportunity to re-visit stories from his or her childhood. Why wouldn’t you want to show enthusiasm for a story you loved as a child? I absolutely loved There’s an Alligator Under My Bed and I share that enthusiasm when I read it to my children at night. Third, she shares how stories keep far-flung military families connected. That really is a lovely thought in this distracted world.
There is the work that is done in the brain when a parent reads aloud to a baby. It’s soothing and stimulates cognitive development. Imaginative decoding of picture books is next and probably the most enjoyable aspects of reading aloud where children’s brains are stimulated.
There is the imaginative transport of classic novels. Which novel would like to visit? To Kill a Mockingbird? Pride and Prejudice?
There is the rejuvenating late-life consolations of poetry and prose. There is just so much “spoken syllable” (Charles Dickens) out there.
Other benefits of this book include the practical tips and the myriad of reading recommendations that are woven into it. You will find a way to work this into your family life and you will find many books that you can use to bring your children together, learn something, make connections with people in history, and even, possibly, enjoy it. And they won’t even know they are missing their screens!
And I have a few favorite quotes:
"Technology is training us to dart and react like hummingbirds, scrolling, clicking, tweeting, liking. For people in the sustained-attention business, not least book publishers, these developments are unsettling" (p. 121).
"Culture does not consists solely of art and writing, of course, but also fo attitudes, practices, and values. The things we say when we are talking about about stories and pictures, the emphases we make and the bits we skip over, tell them something about how we see the world" (p. 157).
"Literary art helps us live longer, and enjoying it together out loud makes us smarter, happier, and more contented" (p. 191).
"Entering into storytelling mode has a mesmerizing power of its own. The sight of a parent or teacher sitting with a book attracts young children like iron fillings to a magnet" (p. 201).
There are many books on reading aloud out there. This really is one of the better ones! This mother of three will be taking advice from Megan Cox Gurdon, mother of five, on reading aloud and all the enchantment it brings. And I’ll let her know I’m having my students read aloud to each other as well!