You read to me and I’ll read to you |

You read to me and I’ll read to you

One of the most remarkable events to occur during the time my children were growing up in Truckee was a third-grade class reading of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” with each student responsible for reciting a section of Dylan Thomas’ memoir of his childhood Christmases. Family members were invited to attend this mid-winter celebration organized by Truckee Elementary School teacher Judy Santamaria.

Reading aloud was a very important part of my childhood. We were read to nightly as children and passed the book around to take turns when we were older. To this day my parents read aloud to each other to start off the day.

Jim Trelease is a passionate proponent of reading aloud. The lack of accessible research on the benefits of reading aloud inspired this Massachusetts journalist and artist to put together his bestselling “Read Aloud Handbook,” which documents the importance of creating readers by reading aloud to children. The book offers a treasure trove of information about how to read to all ages, and includes lists of recommended books for reading aloud.

Teachers have always read aloud to school children, sometimes encouraging their charges to interpret the story in illustrations, then show each other their different visions of the same storyline and characters. Trelease believes that reading aloud helps children develop and improve the skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and stimulates growth and understanding of vocabulary and language patterns.

At Boston Medical Center, the Reach Out and Read Program provides volunteers to read to children in waiting rooms, doctors use books in the exam room to determine developmental progress, and each child is given a book to take home. Read Aloud Virginia, a state-wide program founded in 1998 by a school psychologist, promotes success through reading aloud, and offers tools and support to encourage parents, teachers, and caregivers to read aloud to children for at least 20 minutes a day. Delaware has a similar program targeting preschool-age children.

On these long winter nights, reading aloud is a great way to spend time with family and friends. Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” and Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” are natural read-alouds this time of year, as are Hanukkah and Kwanzaa stories. Classics such as books by Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and Pearl Buck make good read-alouds any time of year.

If you’re wondering how to get started, check out the Web site where you can listen to members of the Screen Actors Guild reading children’s books.

With the abundance of audiobooks these days, chances are you are already being read to, even if you don’t think of it that way. Each time you listen to a recorded book cassette or CD or your child listens to “book tapes” (picture books accompanied by cassettes that are available in large quantities at the library), you are experiencing the pleasure of reading aloud.

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