Reading Beyond "Reading Aloud"

From the TMS Library:

That sound you hear? It’s the clicking of thousands of keyboard keys as bloggers and other writers react to Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic’s recent post on the New York Times website, “I’m Tired of Reading Out Loud to My Son, O.K.?”

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Her conversational essay, light and breezy as chiffon, is nonetheless bound to generate a flurry of earnest attention. Lucianovic’s point is simple: for her, reading aloud to her son, particularly at bedtime, is a strain. Despite the sweet and cozy notions of evening story time, and the known benefits of reading aloud, the process is, for her, “exhausting.” Her tone is unfailingly arch, as when she describes hiding Goodnight Moon from her son and relates her husband’s frustrations with Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Book Ever:

 

My math professor husband, who loves a good counting book, has his own Richard Scarry gripe: “The Best Counting Book Ever” is not a good counting book. “The first 40 pages are devoted to the numbers 1 to 20,” he says. “Even if you just count up to each number once and turn the page, by the time you get to the number 10, you’ve really counted to 55! Getting to 20 roughly quadruples the number we’ve effectively counted to — in general, it’s a quadratic growth function. When he’s older, I’ll explain that we didn’t always have time to count to 1,050.”

Whatever the humorous tone, though, the essay has already sparked the now familiar internet back-and-forth that goes something like this… Person 1: “I feel that way sometimes.” Person 2: “I NEVER feel that way.” [End of Conversation].

Leave it to Julia (Jules) Danielson, who writes the wonderful blog 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast to sidestep the fray and respond with good humor and good advice.

In her essay, published at the Kirkus Reviews website, Danielson recognizes the potential for throat clutching among the bookish — librarians, book-loving parents, educators — but also the importance of stepping out of the echo chamber.

[Lucianovic] acknowledges that she will likely miss this one day, especially when her son’s older and no longer wants a parent to read books aloud to him. I believe her, and I’m not here to pick on her, even if reading aloud to my children is my favorite part of parenthood. There are parts of parenthood that feel like drudgery on the best days, no doubt about it. We do ourselves (and wannabe parents) a disservice when we act like parenthood is all sweet refrigerator art and snuggles ‘n’ hugs. To acknowledge the ennui of the daily grind doesn’t make us ingrates. It’s just honest.

And to each his own. Not everyone adores reading, and that’s okay. (Yes, I’m a librarian, and I just wrote that.)

Even better, Danielson, a writer and longtime librarian, explores the guilt some less-than-enthusiastic parents are feeling in the face of all the relentless encouragement to read aloud (“Reading is magic. ACCEPT THE MAGIC. Or else.”). The entire essay is well worth reading, but one section is particularly refreshing:

I wish I had answers. Sometimes I wonder: Why the pressure? I have noticed this, though: In my experience, the slogan-happy folks in education often most loudly touting the benefits of reading are people who don’t often read as a hobby. My friends and colleagues who most love stories and books are too busy reading to give it just lip service. It’s my favorite teachers and librarians—who read to children and share the joy of literature as often as they can in their busy schedules, whether reading aloud or storytelling or sharing poetry—who eschew catchphrases and ridiculous, desperate attempts to get children to read. (The most painful I’ve seen is a principal who promised to kiss a dog on the lips if the students read so many books during a semester. This communicates to children that reading is a very onerous task.)

Roger Sutton once said it best when he wrote, “if you want to convince children of the power of books, don’t tell them stories are good. Tell them a good story.”

Too often, in the quest to “win children over,” adults forget to consider what they themselves like. Consider visiting the TMS Library, or a local children’s bookstore, without your child sometime during the coming months and browse the surprising options that may inspire you (and your family) at storytime.

Links:

“I’m Tired of Reading to My Son, OK?” by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic
“Reading Aloud” by Julia Danielson
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Image:

“Alice in Wonderland” by George Dunlop Leslie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Dunlop_Leslie

 

tmsReading Beyond "Reading Aloud"