I have not written for quite some time, but after some recent conversations with my 22-year-old brother, Christian, I had some inspiration. I am the oldest of four and two of my siblings are not even out of high school. There is a seven year gap between me and Christian, an eleven year gap for my next brother, John Paul, and a fifteen year gap between me and my sister, Lizzie. Needless to say, all of us are having very different life experiences at the moment, and so many people assume that we are not close due to the age gap or different interests. This is so far from the truth.
I was my siblings’ free babysitter for a number of years and even though I was much older, we all became close friends and allies. One of the things I loved to do the most with my siblings was read to them. Christian was able to experience this the most as we had more time together. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit came alive for him as we sat in my room and I read aloud from Tolkien’s masterpieces. I loved seeing his reactions as he gasped or grabbed a pillow and hid behind it when the Ring Wraiths appeared. I enjoyed those books the most when I was reading them to my brother.
I read more age appropriate things to John Paul and Lizzie: Sleeping Beauty, The Polite Elephant, Little Miss Magic… the list could go on forever. My dad used to ‘do the voices’ for me when I was a kid, so I did the same for them. Their laughter made every story real for me.
Now, of course, all of them love to read on their own. I joke that my sister could eat books for breakfast, and I’ve caught John Paul with enormously large volumes of fantasy. I am so grateful that my parents read to me and that I was able to share that gift with my brothers and sister. I can’t help but think that it is becoming a lost art as I look around at parents plugging their kids into iPads and smart phones and other glowing distractions.
The more I watch T.V. or scan social media, the more I realize that I like reading better. It is true that I cannot always read for pleasure, as the majority of my work consists of reading, and my poor eyes need a break. Nonetheless, the adventures I shared with my younger siblings and other children I babysat, and the adventures I continue to have from a good book, are much more exciting than anything in the digital world these days. Most modern script writing is mediocre at best, and I find a lot of movie and television dialogue to be forced and superficial.
I want to bring good literature back. Bring reading aloud back. Bring story time back. Imagination is not dead yet. Let’s continue to feed young minds with great writing. Parents, read what your kids are assigned in school and choose what’s right for them. Kids, read to your siblings, and even read to your parents. Parents, encourage your kids to read or better yet, read aloud—you just might end up in Middle Earth or Narnia with them.
And here is a short article that discusses only some of the many benefits of reading aloud: http://www.readaloud.org/why.html