Overheard at the Bookstore

Josie Leavitt - March 20, 2013

Monday was an in-service day for our local Waldorf school. In our building, the two of the other tenants are parents at the Waldorf school, so while they were at the conferences, their kids were hanging out in the bookstore.
Kids hang out in the bookstore all the time. What made these three girls, ranging in age from seven to ten, different was they took turns reading out loud to each other. I sat at the register working on a purchase order while I listened to the ten-year-old, Trina, entertaining the others with a spirited reading of Emeraldalicious. This girl threw herself into the story with such gusto I thought that her parents must be excellent readers to her. She paused, she inflected,  and more importantly, she clearly enjoyed sharing the story.
This got me thinking about reading out loud and why sometimes there’s an arbitrary cut-off for it when a child can competently read on her own. I’ve had many discussions with parents who say that once their kid turned eleven or so, they stopped reading out loud at nighttime. I know some kids might prefer that and want the quiet time to read on their own, but it made me sad. I think there’s a real joy in reading out loud with someone you love, whether they’re ten or fifty. The connection, the time spent together, and the shared experience is something that really can’t be beat.
So, let’s get everyone reading out loud again. It sure made my morning listening to the kids.

7 thoughts on “Overheard at the Bookstore

  1. Judy Brunsek

    I have sometimes done a version of “audio books” on long car trips. Reading to everyone in the car, while the miles passed. The book was usually for my son’s benefit, but I picked books that I knew we’d all be happy to hear.

  2. jane

    I have very fond memories from several summers ago — my cousin was reading to her two kids, on the beach, 3:00 each afternoon. And various aunts, uncles and cousins sitting in to listen as well.

  3. Cindy Brewer

    This is something that I stress to all of the parents who shop at our warehouse sale. As I learned from experience with my oldest, failing to do this can really affect a child’s comprehension skills — they just will not come and ask the meaning of words they don’t understand. What a joy to make memories of reading together at any age — my college daughter and I still do it when she is home! Thanks for such a great observation, Josie.

  4. Carol Chittenden

    When my son was 18 and home for the holidays from his first semester in college, the house was chilly as I prepared dinner for just the two of us. He came out from his bedroom carrying Taran Wanderer and said, “How about if I read to you?” It was one of his old favorites, and delighted us both. After dinner, while he washed dishes, I read the next chapters to him. That was such a pleasure that we carried on the tradition, through Italo Calvino, Jane Jacobs, Erich Maria Remarque, Richard Bradford, and dozens of others for years. Though we’re rarely in the same kitchen in this phase of life, I’m sure we’ll take it up again within hours when the opportunity arises.

  5. Tim tocher

    As an educator, I never understood why this is such a tough sell to parents. The reader and listener share a wonderful bond that benefits both parties. The listener is free to lose him/herself in the story. The reader sees what techniques really work in capturing an audience’s attention. What an invaluable aid to a writer!
    To this day, I love to be read to. I never responded to the Canterbury Tales as anything more than tedious until a gifted professor started each lesson by reading aloud. Lyrical novelists like Walter Keady use the warmth of their voice to add texture to their work.
    Timothy Tocher, author of BILL PENNANT, BABE RUTH, AND ME


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