There is No Age Limit To Reading Aloud

This post is in celebration of World Read Aloud Day today, February 3, 2021!

Many of us drifted off into sleep listening to a story read aloud to us. My parents read to me when I was little, and I started reading to my baby brother the day he came home for the first time. Now, I read to my 10-year-old, but she more often than not reads to me. She does incredible voices (you should hear her Severus Snape!), and makes the story come alive. Reading out loud gives us opportunities to discuss characters’ decisions and personalities, and to speculate as to what happens next. Reading invites us to have conversations, it pushes our reading skills – for the kids and the grown-ups – and gives us a moment of connection. Nobody is ever too old to enjoy reading, or being read to, out loud!

Reading aloud is of course a great time, but the purpose of reading out loud throughout history often ranged from education to community-building in addition to fun.

Take a look at this photograph with the child(ren) in your life – just the photograph at first, no title or caption. Discuss together:

  • What do you notice about this picture? Can you describe the person that stands out the most?
  • Where do you think this photo was taken? What is everyone doing? Why are they here?
  • Why do you think “the reader” there? How do you think he makes a difference?

A “Reader” in cigar factory, Tampa, Fla. 1909. Prints and Photographs Collection.

After you take a close look, share with them that this is a “lector” in a Cuban cigar factory from 1909. His job was to read newspapers to the factory workers as they went through the day; this was often the only way for them to receive an education. Imagine together what you would do in his place. What would you read? What do you think these workers would want to listen to?

Reading aloud for human connection is, and has been, universal! Take a look at this illustration below, again with no title at first. As you talk about, consider these prompts:

  • What do you notice first?
  • Describe the figures you see in the picture. How do you think each of them feeling?
  • What do you think is her relationship between the reading girl and the boy in the bed? Why is she reading to him?

A boy lays in bed, looking ill, while a girl reads to him on the edge of his bed while a woman looks on

A. Williamson. [Janey’s only accomplishment was reading aloud], 1911. Prints and Photographs Collection.

This is an illustration from a book from 1911 about a 9-year-old girl, Janey, whose friend Danny became too sick to play. But “this did not interfere with the deep friendship between him and Janey” because the only way she could help him was to read to him. Together, they explored the worlds of “faëry, of Greek and Roman and Norwegian gods, of mediæval knights, of the people of Robin Hood.” According to Danny’s family, Janey reading to him made his day!

The child or children in your life may not look like the kids in the illustration, but the kindness and the shared moments are something that we can all give to each other. There is magic in reading aloud.

Today is our chance to intentionally celebrate reading out loud. It’s a chance to learn together, have fun together, and show that we care about each other. Maybe you will listen to an audio book together, or revisit a favorite childhood story with a loved one over a video call.  Maybe you read to the dog, cat, or pet bird together, or maybe everybody takes turns doing dramatic readings from a comic book, with sound effects and reenactments.

How will you celebrate today?

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