The Joys of Being Read To, Reading aloud,

Or listening to audio books

I have vivid memories of being read to by parents and teachers while growing up, and occasionally my husband will read aloud to me some article he thinks or knows I would be interested in. My sixth grade teacher read aloud to the entire class every Friday afternoon for the last twenty minutes of the school day. I remember her reading Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, The Yearling, and Old Yeller. There was not a dry eye in the classroom on that one. We wouldn’t miss a Friday! My mother continued to read to my siblings and me when we arrived home on college breaks! And I always listened in when she read to my children. As a narrator my mother was a marvel – her soothing energetic voice as she read “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Secret Garden” among many others kept me engaged from an early age to well into my fifties. I miss listening to her read aloud.

I have read aloud to friends and family while they were hospitalized or sick – most often I let them choose what they want to hear- and even performed readings to college speech and writing classes. And for the past three years I have been an active listener to audio books – most often checked out from my local library and loaded to my phone through an app. I listen to these during my weekly hour and a half (or more) drives to and from Fort Collins to visit my father.

As a writer I have deliberately chosen to listen to books outside of my main writing genre and find I enjoy thrillers and historical romances. The thrillers I share with my husband as we drive long distances to various dance events or vacations. I’ve also discovered how the narrator makes a huge difference in my listening pleasure. **A side note here for self published authors: the decision on who your narrator is if you are looking to create an audio version of your latest, or first, book, is crucial. I have actually stopped listening to a series because someone made the decision to change the narrator halfway through the series. Listeners become accustom to particular narrators and how they portray the characters, so beware and choose the voice carefully.

There is an episode of “MASH” in which Colonel Potter is reading aloud to a group of Korean children from a local orphanage or village. What was he reading? Not some children’s selection but the instructions on how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the machine guns the soldiers were issued. I loved the way that his voice inflections carried ‘the story’. It was not the words which were important, it was the sound of the story that captured the children’s attention. What really caught my attention and made a lasting impression on me was that after he had ended the story for the children he took the book back to his own bed and continued to read. It was the manner in which it was read that peaked his own interest and desire to continue to read a mundane and usually dry topic. When I first saw that episode, I was in high school and I was so intrigued I decided to try reading my history textbook in a similar manner. Reading aloud to myself, in the manner of telling a story, was an interesting and worthwhile experiment. Not only did I remember better but I began to look forward to reading each assignment. I scored better on tests, too!

Now, as an author, I will often read aloud troublesome sections of a draft or manuscript. It’s not just reading the words, plodding through, you do have to put some energy into it, as if you are reading to someone else. Even after four or more rounds of editing I will read the entire manuscript aloud and will often find that a certain sentence just does not sound right even though it reads correctly. My editor and I have fun rewording those so the words flow better.

As I mentioned earlier, I do appreciate audio books while driving. The drives seem to be much shorter and I am less stressed than when I listen to the radio – they keep interrupting the music with advertisements or news. However, sometimes I have been so engrossed in listening that I have missed an exit or turn. These are usually easy to correct and give me a few more minutes of entertainment!

Do you have memories of being read to? Do you read aloud to yourself or others? Do you listen to audio books? Who will you read to tonight?