Why Read Aloud? (Part Five)


We learn about hardships and overcoming through literature

“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

“if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.”
C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

“When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this easily managed.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Hardship is a universal word. Overcoming hardship is a an eternal goal. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t fade or isn’t a fad. We can all relate to having trials. The Bible says this about trials:

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.

Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.

But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.- James 1

Every human being can relate to having difficulty, but there is something peculiar about us humans. WE get stuck on the idea that ‘we are the only one’. Adversity seems to isolate. Once we are neck deep in a trial, we keep it to ourselves. Smile, put on a happy face and don’t let anyone know what you are going through or only focus on what everyone else around you is doing. “No one is told anyone’s story but their own,” Aslan says in The Horse and His boy, a line I quoted many times to my children. They understood the concept because we had read the book (more than once).

Children and teens seem to suffer from the ‘woe is me’, it’s only me’ syndrome even more than adults. That is where reading aloud comes in. Reading about characters who suffer adversity and overcome gives parents great fodder for discussion. It gives us a starting point and some common ground to build on.

In the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum,  Daniel Schwabauer teaches that a great adventure novel must alternate between disasters and dilemmas. Great literature employs a leap frogging between the two and so does real life.  People don’t often put the sequence into words. We are remotely aware that we are under stress. Reading about others experiencing disasters and dilemmas helps us understand our own problems. The book of James tells us that disasters and dilemmas (trials and temptations) can grow our faith, produce endurance and patience and when these have done the work, we will be perfectly and fully developed.

A well developed character in literature has a change in character. No one wants to read about a character who doesn’t overcome anything. Boring. Why do we want to read literature with character change, i.e. disasters and dilemmas? Because we want the to be part of the universal nobody Emily Dickinson refers to:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

which in essence means, we are all in this together. Reading aloud allows us to join the great conversation and in joining it we can learn to overcome adversity together.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor and Three Word Wednesday. Join us!



Why Read Aloud? (part four)


I’ve been doing a series on Wednesdays entitled  Why Read Aloud? If you missed any of the series, you can start here.

We learn about relationships through literature

All the World

I assigned the high school Shakespeare book club I host an essay writing assignment, Why is Shakespeare still relevant today? We read some of the papers aloud last Friday and they are amazing. Each is diverse and unique and answers the question according to the writer’s personality. There were comparisons between Julius Caesar and The Walking Dead (a zombie show) and references to young teen love and respect of parents (Romeo and Juliet), “off with his head” (Alice in Wonderland, but actually first in Richard III), brothers banishing siblings (As You Like It)and morals and values through thought provoking passages. I could go on, but the common theme? The problems Shakespeare addressed concerning relationships are the same problems we face today.

“I believe that Shakespeare is as relevant today as when he was writing. To begin with, his topics and themes are based on circumstances and events that happen in the modern world. Shakespeare’s dramas and comedies center around love-triangles, brother-to-brother fights, children and parents disagreeing, quarrels between religious sects, and friendship. Everyone around the world today has at least heard of one of these or themselves been involved. It can be beneficial to a reader of Shakespeare to discover how the characters handle their situation. Elanor Roosevelt once said: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.””- Mary Grace Tillman (Shakespeare book club student)

Wouldn’t you rather learn or have your children learn about young teen love and the disastrous outcome of not being obedient by reading Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Kristin Lavransdatter, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or fill in the blank?  Each one my students recognized the lessons on relationships in the Shakespeare plays so I am sure they apply the same sort of thought and study to other sorts of literature they are reading. Isn’t that wonderful?  If we could glean even one lesson about relationships from literature, wouldn’t that help us? Wouldn’t it help your children to learn about relationships from reading a book instead of Mom and Dad preaching it to them day and night?

One of my favorite books when I was young was The Secret Garden. I loved watching Mary change from a spoiled little girl to one who had empathy for her cousin, Colin. Her character changed. She put the needs of her cousin above her own and with a bit of earth helped him have hope for the future. Because of that hope, determination and fresh air, he was able to walk to his Father and another relationship was restored.

It is important to read aloud, listen to audio books or at the very least discuss literature in order for these lessons to be discovered. Reading a chapter in which the main character makes a choice that gives him negative consequences is not enough. It can quickly be drowned out by daily activities and be forgotten, yet if it is discussed and applies to life, it will more likely be remembered.

I love A Jane Austen Education:How Six Novels Taught me About Love, Friendship and The Things That Really Matter by  William Deresiewicz. Here is a man who took  that to heart and hammered out the lessons he learned on paper for everyone else to partake of.

What is your favorite book concerning relationships? What did it teach you?

“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;—it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.”
Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Make sure you check out this wonderful resource- The Reader and The Book. So many wonderful reviews available at your finger tips, so if you are just getting started reading aloud, you have some wisdom to glean from. I jumped around the site a bit and I was pleased to see so many children’s books we own and love and the same goes for the adult selection of reviews.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday. Join us!


Why Read Aloud? (part three)


Granddaughter Cecilia ran through the children’s section in Barnes and Noble and headed straight for the stuffed animals.

“Cecilia, honey, put that down, we are here to look at the books,” her daddy said as she picked up a stuffed animal.

She did and went straight for the shiny, big books with sparkles and Elmo on them. She went for the eye-candy and familiar characters. When it came time to leave the book store and the Grandparents (Jerry and I) were ready to make a purchase for her, we chose a book that her mama had loved, not one that she had picked.

One mistake parents make (guilty) is not introducing children to new read alouds. We let children direct the selection and what gets read aloud to them or purchased at the book store. This can backfire. The books, if not well written and illustrated are stale and boring. We parents can quickly assume that the child just doesn’t like books. That is usually not the case. The child just hasn’t been introduced to the proper diet of books.

The day after Jerry and I purchased Miss Suzy for Cecilia, Amerey texted me , “Cecilia loves the book, we read it three times last night and five times this morning already!”

We don’t let children make all the choices when it comes to their nutrition, why should we let them make all the choices when it comes to their literary diet? It’s okay to choose for them. They may not ALWAYS like the selection, but they will be introduced to some variety. In general, kids just don’t know what is available, so they go to the same thing over and over again, peanut butter and jelly or Elmo and Sesame Street.

If your child isn’t used to listening to anything being read aloud, be prepared for him not to last very long listening. Don’t take this as a sign that you should give up altogether. When you introduce a toddler to a new food, you don’t give up the first try, do you? It’s normal for a toddler to reject new foods and ask for the same foods every day, yet parents know to keep trying a variety. The same is true with literature. If you can get a child to sit still for a few pages of a book, do it, the next day add another page or try another genre of literature. Don’t give up!

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book. —Frank Serafini

Check out The Whole House tomorrow when I am gifting a set of couple’s tickets to the Empowered to Connect Simulcast held on April 8,9!

Book suggestion for today:

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor. Join us!


Why Read Aloud?


Why read aloud?

I’m (Kathleen) beginning a series on Wednesdays entitled “Why Read Aloud?” and I have a long list of topics beginning with seven reasons to read aloud (which may take seven posts). Audrey is posting about reading aloud on Tuesdays. Thanks for joining us!



Audrey, Amerey, Hunter, Jerry, Ania and I sat in the common room in the orphanage (Children’s Home) in Sulejow, Poland. The Guire family lived there for a month while we awaited the adoption of a sibling group of four. I pulled out our current read aloud, Johnny Tremain.

“I sat down to read with Audrey, Amerey and Hunter. Jerry sat down with paper, markers and Ania. He made a giant ‘A’ on a piece of paper and showed it to her.

“This is an ‘A,’ Ania say ‘AAAAA.’”

She looked at the pretty paper and the giant “A” and dutifully repeated, “AAAAA.”

Jerry drew a beautiful red apple. He showed Ania the picture, “Ania, this is an apple. Apple begins with A.”

Ania admired the beautiful apple by examining it from two inches away, tilting her pumpkin head down as if it were weighted, then she leaned back and repeated, “AAAAAAA,” more reverently than the first time.   

She adjusted her okulary (glasses) and pulled up her jumper and tights with one squeaky, grunting, heaving motion as Tata Jerry made dotted lines on the paper. He then showed her the “A is for apple” paper a third time and pointed out the strange lines, “This is how you make an ‘A,’ Ania, see?”

“AAAA,”  Ania replied as she appraised the paper again.

“You can make an A like this,” Jerry inserted the pencil in her hand and guided her tracing effort.  Her nose grazed the page, her ponytails painted the paper as she strained to focus and control her chunky hand. A wobbly letter ‘A’ remained on the paper when she raised her head.

She regarded it proudly as she repeated, “AAAA.” Jerry leapt from his seat to share his earth-shattering success with me.

“Ania just learned an ‘A,’” he reported joyfully, “I think I’ll teach her the color red now.”  He turned to gaze at his star pupil, who had magically produced her brand new kindergarten safety scissors and chopped the “A is for apple” page to bits!

“Pocosch, Tata!” she yelled. She smiled at her pile of bits of red apple paper, “Di me carton, Tata!” [Give me paper, Daddy!]. And so, Ania’s American education began, one bit of colored paper at a time. “- Positive Adoption; A Memoir


  1. We learn the language from hearing the language

Ania didn’t speak English and the Guire family spoke some rudimentary phrases in Polish with a great deal of assistance from our interpreter. She was being introduced to English on letter at a time and through listening to the read aloud. In the evenings, we did round two of read alouds with all the children. Gregory’s favorite was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we listened to it over until he began to repeat phrases.

Reading aloud is a great way to learn a new language, but it is also how we learn our native language. We learn a turn of a phrase, context, vocabulary and all through hearing the written word.  Reading aloud activates the brain.


“Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex. This brain area is “a watershed region, all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” said the lead author, Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.” –www.blackenterprise.com


The brain is being activated in the left hemisphere, it is logical, literal (it likes words), and linear (it puts things in sequence and order) ( Read The Whole Brain Child for more info on this).

When a child hears more sophisticated language then he can speak, it stimulates the left hemisphere of the brain. His vocabulary grows. The more he hears, the more he knows.

Since children acquire language primarily through the ear, the words they hear are central to their ability to understand and use words in speech and create meaning from words in print. If children don’t regularly hear new words in new contexts, they will not be able to add them to their mental storehouse of words. Moreover, children will be limited in their abilities to read and write based on the number of words and language structures they have in their minds (Orr 2000). “-www.education.com

Why read aloud? To grow the left hemisphere of the brain, increase vocabulary, learn words in context, broaden verbal abilities and most of all, connect with your child (which also grows the brain, but that’s another post). So, grab a book, a comfy spot and read!

Reading suggestion for the day:


Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday! Join us!