Books

Who Knew? Today is National Read-a-Book Day

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.

7 thoughts on “Who Knew? Today is National Read-a-Book Day

  1. What an excellent idea for a gift, Mary, especially for a baby shower, or any time, really. My husband and I read aloud to our boys for years, wherever we were. Whether at home, in the car, or on the ferry, it was a special time. I cherish the memory of those precious hours, when they sat enthralled and still. From board books to the first few Harry Potter books, we kept at it until they finally chose to read alone, and would disappear into their bedroom. Thanks for reminding me of the joy derived from reading aloud!

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  2. I remember you reading to me. I loved it. My son loved it too. When he discovered stories were on the pages of books his obsession began. He memorized his books. I think this is how he learned to read, but that is another story. He would watch the words as I read and knew where the page turns were. If I messed up or mumbled as I fell asleep, I would get a sharp elbow to the ribs and he would say,”Dat’s not right!” Sometimes I read aloud to my husband as he cooks dinner. A fair exchange of services I think. Now I am reading Joy Ride, Show People and Their Stories by John Lahr. If you asked me or my husband or my son what their favorite thing in the world is, the answer would undoubtedly be a good story.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah, for this! You too MUST read this book. I’ll pass on my copy to you. But you have to return it! This book is a keeper.

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  3. Aye Mary … when reading aloud to my awesome little boys, I favored the original A.A. Milne stories … yes, even when pregnant with my fourth son, Kris.

    Patio story time … any time of day or evening … was popular in our little neighborhood in Cardenas Village, Canal Zone. Occasionally the young Panamanian women who lived with our families there would read aloud from Spanish versions of favored stories … including the Milne stories, wee Kris’ most frequent choices.

    No surprise then, barely three years old, Kris was the first to respond to a TV game show challenging players to name the title of the book from which the first line would be read : “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.” … even before the third “bump” was read … wee Kris called out, “It’s Winnie, Winnie-the-Pooh!”

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    1. Wonderful! The language in Winnie the Pooh is not easy! That your three year old loved it is testament to his intelligence and your wisdom as a mother in reading to the boys. It’s a wonderful thing to do. Until I read The Enchanted Hour I really wasn’t aware just how wonderful. It’s the most helpful thing a parent can do–on so many levels. I’m glad the TV wasn’t really an option in Panama “in the old days.” Thanks for weighing in on this important subject.

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