“We read to know that we’re not alone.”
–attributed to C.S. Lewis; actually from Shadowlands, a movie about Lewis.
While there is something attractive about this quotation, I’m glad that Lewis didn’t actually say it. While reading can indeed be a wonderful way of communing with others, especially those of past generations, it seems to me that there are a number of better ways of knowing that we’re not alone than by simply reading.
One of them is reading aloud together.
There is something about entering into a story together at the same time. The very fact that others are listening as you listen—or read—adds a whole new layer to the story. Their experience is part of my experience of the story, and somehow the whole thing becomes our experience.
There are many contexts for people to read aloud together. What might be done that teenagers and young adults be drawn to read aloud among themselves? It is a sobering sign of our times that such a thing might seem a bridge too far.
But our focus should be on what is in our power. If you have young children, seize the time! Often children will be happy to do whatever parents are happy to do. There are great books suited to every age group: perhaps a Robert Louis Stevenson story, King Arthur legends, or a classic fairy tale. For newlyweds and empty-nesters, what a rich experience lies in wait: perhaps a Shakespeare play, a Walter Macken short story, a Jane Austen novel, or a Wendell Berry novel. The possibilities are almost endless. Families with older children will require more effort to get everyone together, but the effort will be well rewarded.
It might take practice, and patience. (“Are y’all going to quiet down and listen or not…?”) But summer is precisely the time to give it a try: perhaps once a week? Sunday afternoon or evening? Who knows, people may enjoy it so much that they ask for it serially each evening.
With so many centrifugal forces at work in our home, pulling us away from the center and from one another, at least here is a centripetal force we can unleash, pulling us toward the center and toward one another: summer reading aloud together.
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This is the fourth in a series: What To Do This Summer.
Image: by Leon Lhermitte (1844-1925)