The Joys of Reading Aloud, or, I Love the Sound of My Own Voice

When I was a wee child, my parents read to me every single day. They say it was every day, and I believe them, though obviously I don’t remember a lot of those days. I do, however, remember being read to. My mom would read me horse books, the stories of Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry were an inextricable part of my childhood, as were dog stories like those of Jim Kjelgaard which my father read to me. Before I could read a word or even understand what language was, fiction was a huge part of my life and formed the foundation for my understanding.

gif love to read Matilda

As I grew older, my parents started having me read with them or TO them. Once I was old enough to read independently entirely comfortable, this happened less often, but elements of it remained pretty much until I went off to college, like mom and me reading the comics in the newspaper doing funny voices for all the characters. Even in adulthood, sometimes on car trips, rather than playing an audiobook, I’ll be the audiobook and read the book aloud, with mom subbing in when my vocal cords just cannot anymore.

Probably because reading aloud has been such a huge part of my life, both hearing stories told to me and reading them myself to others, I sometimes really want to read my books out loud, even if the only one around to hear it is my cat. (Interestingly enough, my mom swears that Percy is much friendlier when she catsits if she reads aloud to him. Apparently he finds it soothing.)

gif reading aloud

Certain things I will always read aloud: plays and picture books. These mediums are obviously intended for the voice to bring to life, and I cannot resist it. Even better is when I can get someone to read a play with me because I don’t have quite enough dude voices usually.

Obviously this is also why, once I gave them a real try, I found that I love audiobooks. For some reason, I always thought I wouldn’t be able to pay enough attention, but my childhood was built on books read aloud to me. All books don’t make great audiobooks and I’m picky about which ones I want to listen to, but they can greatly enhance my experience.

gif reading icarly books tv in your head

Since reading a book aloud is tiring to the throat and takes way longer, I don’t generally sit down and read the whole book aloud from cover to cover anymore. Mostly, I choose a few of the main characters and read out the dialog. Yes, I do silly voices and have a grand old time with it. Percy often comes to listen.

Recently, the reading aloud bug has caught me again. I blame A Song for Ella Grey for this, because it’s written in a dialect. Scottish, I think, though I’m not sure that I would recognize Welsh so who knows. Anyway, dialect slows me down anyway because I have to sound out the words in my head, and it’s much more fun and less frustrating to just say them. It can help me get the flow of dialect too. I had to read some of Blood Red Road and The Knife of Never Letting Go aloud to decide that on the whole I liked the writing, even though dialect annoys me. Plus, dialect can help me work on my accents. I swear I got closer to Scottish than I ever have before, though sometimes I lapsed into cockney and I had to work my way back.

gif british accent misheard

gif is he doing an accent

Once I’ve read thing aloud though, the urge sticks around a while. I just started a Lunar Chronicles reread so that I can work my way to Winter. I’m on Cinder and I was reading Iko, Cinder, and Kai aloud. Super fun, but I didn’t have a review ready so I stopped, even though I’d love to read them aloud like this.

gif she read about people she could never be adventures she could never have pushing daisies

What’s your reading history?
Do any of you guys love to read aloud?

15 responses to “The Joys of Reading Aloud, or, I Love the Sound of My Own Voice”

  1. E.Maree says:

    I’m not much of a read-aloud-er, but I’m trying to get into the habit more now so I can read my own works and double-check the flow. (I’m Scottish, and I write with a light Scottish dialect — not too far off A Song for Ella Grey, which looks bloody *amazing* and is fairly easy on dialect compared to say, Trainspotting).

    I’ve just started getting into audiobooks. I find I’m more critical of strange voices than I am of my own — I gave up on Ready Player One because it felt like Wil Wheaton was just preaching his knowledge at me like a douchebag, and while I usually adore Cecil Palmer’s readings, it took me a few chapters of the Welcome to Night Vale novel before I got used to him reading an actual story instead of his usual podcast radio broadcasts.

    I’m definitely still adapting to this brave and awesome new audio world — I find I still read faster than I listen, so I’ll often use my listening time for podcasts instead. Night Vale, Limetown, and The Black Tapes podcast are current favourites, as well as non-fiction podcast Writing Excuses.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Reading your writing alone is one of the best ways to edit and check for flow. 🙂 I would do that with my papers when I wasn’t too lazy. Haha.

      A Song for Ella Grey was definitely light, throwing in some mebbes and ayes, but it wasn’t EVERYTHING. I don’t mind light dialect. You really don’t need to much to signal that people are in a particular location or have a certain accent.

      I enjoy Wil Wheaton’s narration, but I also laughed at that because I can totally see it. Like you, I’m very judgmental of narrators. I always listen to samples first and generally immediately go yes or no. A lot of voices are just not ones I want to listen to for hours on end.

      I’ve never gotten into the whole podcast thing, because I’m a completist and there is just SO much of everything. I’ve promised several people to try WTNV at some point, but I don’t know when I’ll get into it. Listening to audiobooks definitely takes longer than reading the print, but I listen when I’m driving or in the morning while I get ready/at night while I’m prepping for bed. Also during chores. Times when I wouldn’t have gotten reading done otherwise. It’s nice. 🙂

  2. My parents probably read out loud to me a lot as a kid, but I can’t remember it very well. I read stuff aloud to myself occasionally, but it’s almost exclusively lines I find funny (because funny is always worth repeating) and anything written in a foreign language. I love the feel of other languages on my tongue and trying to get the pronunciations/accents right! That’s how I learned to call someone an asshole in Finnish. (Mulkvisti.)

    I keep swearing I’ll get more audiobooks, but those things are expensive. It being read to me vs. me reading it definitely makes a difference to me. Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan was fucking hysterical as an audiobook because the narrator was so great, but I read the next two books in print and it wasn’t quite the same. Still funny, but I missed the narrator’s voice.

    Also, awwwwww, Percy! Even your cat is bookish.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Oooh, yeah, I will totally try to pronounce foreign words any time they show up in my books, even if I’m not reading out loud otherwise.

      Audiobooks are expensive. I get a lot from the library, and I have an Audible account which puts a nice discount on them. They do really good sales fairly regularly too. Unfortunately, you have to have a monthly plan to take advantage of those things, I think.

      Percy is just so bookish. By which I mean, he likes to stand between me and my book, offering to be read instead.

  3. Heather says:

    Oh, I miss your read aloud voices! haha. I still think you would be pretty amazing at storytime if you could get past the jam hands 😉

    I actually find myself reading aloud way more often now than I ever did. Doing silly voices used to make me feel really weird, but now I can’t read a story aloud without them.

    I totally read books aloud with my mom until probably fifth grade. I was always ahead of my grade level with reading (shocking, I know), so we’d pick chapter books to read together, just as a bonding theme. I distinctly remember reading Babysitters Club and Beverly Cleary this way.

    • Heather says:

      thing* I really should proofread before I hit “submit.”

    • Christina Franke says:

      I would totally ROCK story time. Remember the class when we did story times? That was so fun. I still remember your story about bears. 🙂

      Silly voices all the way. That’s a lot of the fun.

      You? Ahead of your grade level? Wuuuuuut. I think I was at 12th grade by 5th, if I remember right.

  4. My love of books definitely began with oral storytelling. My grandmother and I used to lie down on her bed while she told me Vietnamese fairy tales.
    I love oral storytelling and audiobooks. I really wish my schedule was more audiobook friendly. I have very little free time, so read instead of listening because it’s faster.
    I loved reading aloud to my younger cousin when she was in elementary school. I would read aloud now, but most of my reading is done at night after everyone else has gone to bed, and I don’t want to wake them up. I find that I read with accents and different voices in my mind to fit different characters though.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Awwww, that is such a sweet story. Now I also want to know some Vietnamese fairy tales, because I’m thoroughly unacquainted.

      I use audiobooks for chores and other times when I’m alone but can’t actually read a print book. I’ve turned a lot of non-reading time into reading time. I think of them as a supplement, rather than taking print book time.

      Good idea not to read aloud when you’ve got people around! Thankfully, I live alone and can indulge my oddness.

  5. This is so funny and dead on because I love reading to myself too. I find though that I tend to do it with heavy literature more often (and sometimes classics) because it forces me to slow down and helps me understand it more. Also, beautiful passages can be savored more when read aloud. I adored Atonement and read the majority of it out loud to myself.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Classics are a good one. If the book is dense, I’ll often read the dialog aloud at the very least, to try to get a better handle on the characters or add some emotion I’m not feeling.

      Someday, I’d love to read all of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone books aloud, because her words are so gorgeous and I want to savor them slowly.

  6. I don’t feel so alone now, haha! I like to read aloud, but lately I’m hardly ever alone in the house & would feel pretty weird about reading aloud to myself if someone else could hear. But I find it really helpful to read out loud to myself if I’m reading something in French or translated from French w/ lots of original words (like place names and food and stuff) left in. It helps me understand the language better, plus it makes me feel all fancy and “frawnch” haha.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Whenever there’s German, I love to say the words aloud and practice my rusty language skills. I also pretend I know how to pronounce other languages, like French (generally, I do not haha).

      I live alone (well, with my cat), so I can indulge in the habit quite often. It’s pretty great.

  7. […] “The Joys of Reading Aloud, or, I Love the Sound of My Own Voice” @ A Reader of Fictions: It’s funny, because I remember reading together as a family when I was younger, especially Harry Potter, but I still struggled with audiobooks because I get bored with them. I do like reading some stuff out loud when I’m alone, though, normally boring school stuff that I would otherwise not pay enough attention to. […]

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