The Miracle of Reading

pixabay

I had another post prepared for today… but then a miracle happened…

I showed up at Tornado Boy’s house for two days of “Grammy Time.” Kindergarten doesn’t kick off until Tuesday and preschool ended early, leaving mom and dad in a lurch. When I walked in the door, I received my usual whirlwind of hugs, but the first question out of the tornado’s mouth was, “Do you want me to read a book to you?”

Not Legos, no request to build a spaceship or visit the park, no plea to use his old grammy as a jungle-gym. Nope.

“Do you want me to read a book to you?”

“Why, sure,” I replied, fully expecting a play by play narration through a picture book or a four-pager of his own creation.

I sat on the couch, and he climbed up beside me, tucked in tight, and opened Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. Then page by page, he read me the entire book.

As I listened, I saw the world open up to him, a new superpower revealed, a lifetime of learning and adventure, of Treasure Island and Harry Potter, of Vonnegut and Cussler, Tolkien and Homer. He read to me slowly, sounding out the words, and he didn’t want my help when he got stuck. He was reading, and he too knew that something momentous was happening. He too recognized the magic in the letters and their sounds.

Just ask Jennie Fitzkee (A Teacher’s Reflections) about the power of reading aloud. We’ve read to Tornado Boy since the day he was born, and the local library has become a place of endless exploration. It’s paid off as another child discovers a world of imagination within his grasp, the miracle of words.

Grammy was so happy she could have cried. Then we played Legos, built a spaceship, went to the park, and wrestled. And he read Hop on Pop to me two more times.

Some favorite quotes about reading:

A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. —Victor Hugo

Books are a uniquely portable magic. —Stephen King

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. —Anna Quindlen

Wear the old coat and buy the new book. —Austin Phelps

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. —Jorge Luis Borges

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

 

16 Reasons to Read your Words Aloud.

pixabay free image - ClkerFreeVectorImages

pixabay free image – ClkerFreeVectorImages

Most writers have learned the importance of reading their words aloud. It’s advice I heeded early on and am happy to pass along.

Writing works on myriad levels. On one level, it’s the mechanical delivery of a story, the typing of words according to rules. It’s fingers on keyboards, reams of paper and editing drafts. Beneath the surface, writing is meaning-making through narrative, tapping universal themes and archetypes that existed before man first etched his carvings into cave walls.

As an art form, writing has the ability to transport a reader into another world. We paint with words on the mind’s canvas, compose the music of language, stir smells, tastes, and tactile impressions. The goal is emotional immersion, being present in the experience.

I have an irksome sensitivity to the sounds of words, the rhythm of phrases and sentences. When I search for the right word, it’s not just the meaning I’m chasing. I’m looking for the right number of syllables, the sharpness or softness of the consonants. As I nestle a word into a sentence, I listen for the subtlety of alliteration, a rhythm in the flow of the words that form phrases, phrases into paragraphs.

A story has a natural cadence that arises from sentence structure, word choice, and the balance of narrative, dialog, and exposition. By reading our stories aloud, we’re able to experience that cadence the way our readers do. As part of an editing process, hearing the sounds of our words polishes our work. It’s a positive step not only for individual careers but for the indie community as a whole.

pixabay free image - ClkerFreeVectorImages

pixabay free image – ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it works:

  • Our wondrous human brains expertly and unconsciously correct and smooth over our mistakes.
  • On top of that, we are familiar with our work – we’ve written it, edited it, read it, and lived it. We no longer need to read each word it to read the sentences.
  • Reading aloud forces our brains to focus. The goal is to go slow, read each word, and hear the writing “fresh.”

Reading aloud is one of the most powerful proofreading techniques around, and reading from a printed copy is even better. It further tricks the brain by changing up the visual (as well as providing room for notes).

So what are all these amazing benefits?

1) Typos, missing and misplaced words: Since our brains automatically correct our mistakes, these small errors can be hard to see. Note that if you find yourself verbally stumbling or reading a sentence twice, there is probably something tripping you up.

2) Punctuation:  Like typos, these errors are easier to catch (especially if you read a printed copy).

3) Repeat words: (Example) The drizzle descended with the clouds. They waited inside the shelter for the drizzle to cease.

4) Repeat gestures: Everyone’s nodding, smiling, or raising an eyebrow.

5) Repeated rhythms in sentence structure: (Example) Biting her nails, she strode to the window. Glancing outside, she saw the carriage approach.

6) Starting sentences the same way: (Example) He fell asleep to the music. He dreamed of her swollen face and the blood in her hair. He reached for her wrist, and he felt no pulse.

7) Stacked prepositional phrases: (Example) He stood in the garage under the fan by the car in his underwear.

pixabay free images - OpenClipartVectors

pixabay free images – OpenClipartVectors

8) Repeated information: Telling the reader twice that the character shut the door or was surprised by the phone call.

9) Information that needs to be reordered: The character reacts to the gunshot before the reader hears it. (Much better the other way around.)

10) Missing information: The character trips over the cat in the bedroom when last the reader knew he was eating ice cream on the living room couch.

11) Overly long and run-on sentences: Look for sentences that are difficult to read in a single breath or that lose their coherence. (Example) Sam galloped to the steps, leapt three at a time, and landed on the mat, but nothing prepared him for the ice that had formed unexpectedly overnight despite the forecast for fair weather, and he fell flat on his back.

12) Inconsistencies: A character wears a green shirt, and a few pages later, the shirt is blue. Or you’ve indicated that the character can’t see because it’s pitch dark, yet you’ve described the room.

13) Dialog: People generally talk with a natural rhythm of sounds and pauses (or not for some characters). When read aloud, stilted language will sound unnatural and tongue twisters will interrupt the flow. Anything that requires a pause for a second read is worth a revision.

14) Transitions: Transitions from one topic or scene to another may happen too abruptly and need smoothing out.

15) Pacing: Reading aloud is particularly helpful in identifying sequences that are racing by too quickly, slogging along, or wallowing in backstory.

16) Tone: Does the tone sound right? Too formal or casual? A book has an overall tone as does each scene and character.

Do you read your work? Has it helped?

Share your tips and insights.