Monday, January 3, 2011

Reading Out Loud

Recently I've noticed we aren't reading out loud to our kids anymore. They still enjoy it, and we still have time, but I've kind of run out things I want to read them. The books we've read over the years are mostly ones I loved as a kid; the last one I chose was The Dark is Rising, which was my favorite when I was 11 or so. But you know what? I didn't like it this time around, and neither did my kids. It was a lot of atmospherics, and the story didn't really make sense. My kids are savvier than I was.

That last experience put me off a little bit, and I'm wondering whether the read-aloud era should come to an end, or if I should keep it going until the kids tell me to stop. When we're all really into the book, it's enormous fun. John had a good time with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and its sequels, and we all loved The True Meaning of Smekday, which I found at the bookstore and bought on a whim. So I know more good books are out there, though it does feel like we've read all the obvious ones. And it's just a nicer way to end the day than a session of Minecraft and Failblog.

I'm not a holy roller about the power of reading aloud. I know it's a good thing, but if the kids or parents don't enjoy it, I don't think anyone's doomed to a life of illiteracy and general unhappiness. And as it gets harder and harder to find a book that pleases the kid who doesn't like fantasy ("girls with winter coats and dragons laying eggs"), the one who likes only fantasy, and the overly-picky mother... I wonder if I should let the ritual go.

What do you think? Were you read to? Recommendations? Is it weird to read to teenagers, or what?


Blythe Woolston said...

I love to be read to, and I'm very old. It may bit edgy, but you might try Going Bovine by Libba Bray. And the astonishing Book of Everything. It is transcendent.

KooKooKaChoo said...

My 11yo, 14yo, and I do autobiographies out loud, skipping the boring/racy bits.

Open by Andre Agassi, e.g. Truly excellent (and I hate tennis and don't like Andre much--just read the first 10 pgs and you'll all be hooked). Lots of good parent/kid issues. (Dads can be CRAZY!!!) Just skip the parts about Brooke.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. Very inspiring about failing, failing, failing, then getting fame and not wanting it.

Anything at all by David Sedaris.

These books lead to some interesting writing, too, from the kids. How do you write a good sports scene (very hard!)? How do you look at your own life and make failures into great stories? Something about the "truth" of autobiographies seems to really speak to them. They start telling their stories differently at the dinner table.

(I won't recommend Sh#t My Dad Says....okay, I will. Another very funny, thoughtful autobiog...)

Jay Livingston said...

OK, I get it - no Pullman. But how about Life of Pi? Or Vonnegut? I don't remember how old my kid was when we read Dave Barry collections, but those were fun.

jon said...

I wonder too when a kid is too old to be read to. But there was a time when families routinely read aloud together. My kids also listen to books on tape. As with TV they will listen to the same (sometimes long) book over and over. As long as they enjoy it I think it's great. It doesn't just make books a value. It's a shared, intimate thing when the alternative is, as you say, brain melting gadgetry. The human voice, a good story, people sitting together. I don't suppose you grow too old for that. Especially with young teens. They have to grow up obviously but anything that connects your teenager is important, so long as it isn't a ball and chain.

rmellis said...

I read that Agassi memoir! I still can't get over the fact that he *hates* tennis.

I think we do need to move into a new genre -- I think the ten year old is holding us up... easily bored... autobios a good plan.

Anonymous said...

Jay, we did the Pullman stuff, it was awesome.

rmellis said...

I didn't like Pullman, so sue me! Had to leave the room when the reading was happening.

Anonymous said...

Rhian, I use to love the repeats. The books we read again and again. The physical closeness between the reading couple.

After reading that someone in the New Yorker magazine was in reverie listening to the voice of E B White narrating The Trumpet of the Swan while she drove from Maine southwards, I, too, have ordered that CD set. I cannot wait to hear how E B White wants me to hear that story. I'm counting the days.

-Nancy F

gvNL said...

My oldest son is learning to read at school and lately wants to switch and read aloud himself to his little sister and me. This can take a while and sometimes has the side effect of his father nodding of. Luckily they’re still at an age they like nursery rhymes: they’re short, awake a sense of poetry and repetition means more fun.

I take my hat of to a friend who has read the full Harry Potter series to his children.

lisa dot richards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lisa dot richards said...

I'm in the same predicament with two tweens. Read to them all of the Harry Potter books, His Dark Materials, Lemony Snickets, Artemis Fowls, etc. The one who struggles with reading has lost interest totally. The one who reads three books at once likes to have old Nancy Drew books read aloud to her - ouch. But I do it anyway.