Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Reading Aloud

Russian artist Viola Pushkarova (1929-2010), humorously captures a scene that invariably happens to every parent (above).  That man easily could have been me a few years back when I would fall asleep reading to my daughter. Come to think of it, I still fall asleep reading to my daughter!

Back in 2014, I wrote about the importance of reading out loud to children, commencing at birth. No one disputes the importance of reading on early childhood brain development, and that reading enhances vocabulary and communication skills and leads to earlier comprehension of words and ultimately to higher test scores, etc.  It should be part of every parent's routine and is often a special bonding activity between parent and child. But, I am repeating myself here -- so, blah, blah...

But, did you know that reading out loud is also important for adults? Research is showing that the activity of reading out loud,  employing a great number of faculties,  helps to sharpen focus, exercises  more parts of the brain and even the body, and puts to good use the underused reading faculty of intonation.  Utlimately, reading out loud helps us to remember better.  Art Markman, PhD, wrote in Psychology Today about a study in which groups of people were asked to read a list, some out loud and others silently. Those that read the list out loud remembered it significantly better than those who read it silently. Adding auditory pathways while reading outloud to the visual pathways used in both silent and outloud reading  helped to link recollection. Interesting!

For older adults, especially those coupled, reading to each other is an effective mechanism to monitor each other's brain function (sanity).  It is a worthwhile tool to make sure the brain is still holding steady.  It also stimulates new conversation, and like children, is an effective bonding  activity. But, please, no bickering here!

My work of art, absorbed in one of her favorites - the Just Grace series

Why, you may ask, am I bringing all this up?  Aside from it being an interesting topic, I, like most adults, worry that I am not finding enough space to keep up with reading. Even my leisure design magazines are piling up unopened. As fall approaches, and routines get more firmly set, I hope to carve out and dedicate more time to the important activity of reading, sometimes out loud (to my daughter mostly).

This is how our family would spend our summer afternoons reading in upstate New York...ah, maybe an extreme revisionist version of my childhood!
I read some interesting books this summer including the first installment of the popular series, My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgaard -- but this was not quite to my taste. Below are some books that I do recommend:

My vision of Bathsheba, in Far from the Madding Crowd
  1. Far the The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. It's just brilliant writing.  I enjoyed getting reaquainted with this classic writer.  It is fascinating to alternate traditional literature with the contemporary, to enter the mind of a writer who lived 100+ years ago, and to gain appreciation for what has changed, and realized how much hasn't.  By the way,  I read Far from the Madding Crown with the express interest of having it completed before the new screen adaptation arrived in theaters. I am a sucker for beautiful period films. 
  2. & Sons, by David Gilbert.  While this book did not receive the praise that it deserves, I think it is smart and funny and hits a note for those of us who live in New York. It delivers rich textures, although it can be a bit crass at times, as it examines two generations of monied New York men. It's worth a look. 
  3. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan.  Just read it! It won the Pulitzer, has some incredibly innovative chapters, and is intense yet humorous. 
  4. My Brilliant Friend
  5.  The Story of a New Name
  6. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
  7. The Story of the Lost Child (just out this month) all by Elena Ferrante. In this brilliant series (at times wrought with emotional turmoil) the very austere relationship of two women twists through their mid-century lives in Italy.  Absolutely engrossing and at times, graphic; this trilogy is fresh and entertaining.  
  8. All the Light we Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.  While it took me a few chapters to become enraptured, once in, I couldn't put the book down.  Set in World War II, this book follows a brilliant soldier and a blind French woman as they encounter unfathomable war-time circumstances.  It triumphantly builds into a suspenseful encounter.
  9. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. Just read it. 

All of these books can be bought here:

And don't forget to read some of those passages out loud!

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