aloud weekend…


Beethoven’s Trumpet*

We love to read books aloud in our family.

While our evening routine isn’t perfect, we try to make time for reading a book aloud to the daughter most nights. As she’s gotten older (now 10), the books read have also matured,  and they vary; though I think she could have listened to The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien one more time. Occasionally, a picture book does come off the shelf and is read, because really, you can never be too old for Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes or A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon.

After Thanksgiving Holiday we will begin The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King. We have really enjoyed this series, though it is terribly tricky to read out loud. Sean does a fantastic job with Smeagol’s voice. Reading those parts, I realized just how incredible a job Andy Serkis did in the films. There is also the difficulty with the similar sounding character names which spurred a great conversation on the advantages of the Reader versus the Listener.

“Evening Storytime” (though it is occasionally during the day) is for Sean and myself to read to the daughter.  The daughter, however, loves to read aloud as well. In the car, in the store, in a box, with a fox… She’ll read aloud to anyone if she thinks she has the audience, or even if she doesn’t.

When we lived with Sean’s parents last year, Natalya took to regularly reading Fiction, Non-fiction, whatever, to Grandma. Visiting this weekend, Natalya was prepared, browsing her shelves to determine what Grandma would enjoy. Much to everyone’s delight, N spent hours this weekend reading aloud the ridiculously funny 43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise and (illus M. Sarah Klise). Natalya’s audio-versions are not something you suffer because you know it is good for her to be reading aloud (improves fluency, etc.). She is actually quite enjoyable to hear.

There was a time when reading to oneself was a concept N was just not getting–that wasn’t how books were read. We’ve struck a compromise over time. Maybe we could occasionally share something we were reading–especially when we were each of us occupied with our own books. Hopefully many of you enjoy this form of reading aloud. It is a kind that I was particularly thankful for this weekend. We were all sitting in the living room with books, with full bellies and a bit sleepy, certainly lazy. There is the occasional snicker, or sigh.

Sean laughs and says, “Can I read this?”  He waits for approval, verbal and non. A quick premise, and he reads. This continues, an occasional paragraph or two sent into the quiet page turned air. I love it.

The afternoon swapping excerpts was especially wonderful as Sean is (re)reading The More than Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide by Douglas Adams. (We are going to read this for Evening Storytime after The Lord of the Rings.)

A particularly humorous excerpt Sean shared from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the beginning of “Chapter 7”:

The premise first, end of “Chapter 6”:

There was a sharp ringing rap on the door.

“Then who is it?” said Arthur.

“Well,” said Ford, “if we’re lucky it’s just the Vogons come to throw us into space.”

“And if we’re unlucky?”

“If we’re unlucky,” said Ford grimly, “the captain might be serious in his threat that he’s going to read us some of his poetry first….”

“Chapter 7”:

Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning: four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been “disappointed” by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve-book epic entitled My Favorite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leaped straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.

The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England, in the destruction of the planet Earth.

Looking forward to reading this book aloud.

*John Baldessari
Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear), Opus 127 2007
Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York © John Baldessari
Resin, fibreglass, bronze, aluminuim and electronics
Tate Britain

6 Comments Add yours

  1. cyclebabble says:

    In response to my curiosity:

    This article is from the Douglas Adams FAQ, by Nathan Hughes with numerous contributions by others.

    4.3 Paul Neil Milne Johnstone (aka Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings) (Douglas Adams)

    Paul is a real person, who wrote some appalling poetry. DNA used his
    name, but was forced to retract it for the books and later recordings
    of the radio series. Hence the original programmes have Paul Neil …
    whereas the later works have Paula Nancy ….

    Either way the poetry still sucks. Check it out at

    1. L says:

      brilliant. though terrible for the to be called out as more appalling than the Grunthos the Flatulent…

  2. When I was a young warthog, I fancied becoming a “professional reader-outlouder.” It seemed like an ideal job, doing naught but reading and sharing the joys of storytelling with others. But that ne’er panned out.

    My wife and I have a nightly “story time,” where I usually read out loud and she listens. Unfortunately, I have trouble remembering how I do different character’s voices, so I feel like their speech changes from day to day. This is especially true when we miss a night or two.

    Still, reading aloud is fun, and a great way to build relationships. I’m already looking forward to reading to my child when it’s born next year.

    Great post!

    1. L says:

      that is awesome that you guys have storytime. do you tend to differ on what stories you like?
      I have given up on trying out voices, because I forget almost immediately how the other sounds. the only successful instances of remembered vocalization is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Bill Martin.


      1. …I see a red bird looking at me! (My wife loves Eric Carle books.)

        Aye, we typically vary what we read. Currently, I’m reading some Neil Gaiman short fiction to my wife, as she’s ne’er experienced the joy of Gaiman. I’ve also read Pat Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind to her, and she really liked it. We’ve got a stack of things to go through, though it is slow goings.

        I usually do good voices of villains-whispers, monotones, etc.-but secondary characters are the difficult ones.

  3. Connie Greenlee says:

    Leslie, I’m loving reading your blog. Your family reading time sounds absolutely delightful and I would sure enjoy being the fly on the wall, or another family member reading with all of you. Natalya reminds me of Meggie in “Inkheart”, carefully choosing which books to take. One of the best parts of my school day is being able to read aloud. Books are meant to be shared. Connie

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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