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What We Are Reading

Mary—The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon. In the 19th century, before the availability of electric lights, the father of the family typically read aloud every night to the family gathered around a single light source. I have a theory about the impact this habit had on the culture of the 19th century.

I thought this new book might have some information that would help me refine my idea. It does, but it deals mainly with the positive effects of reading aloud to children at bedtime (or any time). I always read to ours, but I had no idea of what a wonderful thing I was doing! I wish I could put this in the hands of every single parent or grandparent. It would make a wonderful baby shower gift. Plenty of research shows that even tiny babies benefit from being read to.

In the author’s words the book “mixes memoir [she has five children of her own] and advocacy with science, history, art, and literacy. A very helpful feature of the book is the number of suggested stories for reading aloud. Highly recommend not only for parents but anyone who would like to take a few minutes away from their screens to enjoy the magic of an enchanted hour. Herb and I are going to try it.

Herb—I still buy a lot of books each year but have recently begun rereading the books I have decided I like best. They aren’t always the books deemed best by the literary world. Mary asked for one book but I insist Loren D Reed’s two memoirs are really one book. The first is Hurry Home Wednesday (about growing up in a small town (pop. 600) where his family published a newspaper on Wednesday) in the first years of the 20th century) and Finally It’s Friday (about going to college in the 1920s and working as an itinerant Linotypist).

If you want to know what life was like for your great-grandparents, these books are for you. Reed is a very engaging writer. He says his father, like all pressmen, could cuss a blue streak, but he only heard his mother curse once. She started down the rickety basement stairs for a double handful of pigs [technical term] to replace the standby supply on the Linotype. She tripped and tumbled to the bottom. Loren rushed to the rescue and said he found a “heap of arms, legs, ruffled skirts, and a mussed hairdo that represented my one and only ever-loving mother. She was, after all, a woman of solid and substantial proportions.” She waved him off, sat up, “shook herself to see if anything flew off” and exclaimed, “Gosh almighty darn.” How times have changed.