Recently, a library volunteer was recounting the fun they had while reading Shakespeare together with a group and taking turns reading the various parts. Plays certainly lend themselves to Readers’ Theater but reading any literary material aloud or together is a powerful experience. Too often, we limit our reading to something we do in silence alone. Reading together brings us closer to one another and deepens our understanding of what we have read.
For much of history, reading was a fairly noisy activity. On clay tablets written in ancient Iraq and Syria some 4,000 years ago, the commonly used words for “to read” literally meant “to cry out” or “to listen”. “I am sending a very urgent message,” says one letter from this period. “Listen to this tablet. If it is appropriate, have the king listen to it.” Only occasionally, a different technique was mentioned: to “see” a tablet – to read it silently.
I know our wonderful Placitas Community Library volunteers understand the importance of reading aloud and together. They have been recording virtual read aloud Story Time videos so our children can enjoy read aloud experiences from home. You can find those videos on our website. Research tells us that children who are successful readers have at least 2000 hours of exposure to books. We want all our children to have that opportunity. Our volunteers also know that reading aloud and together is important for adults too. They facilitate a number of book groups that our patrons participate in.
As a teacher, I found reading aloud and shared reading experiences were the most important activities in my classroom, regardless of the ages of my students. When my class and I read something together we immediately had a common experience. This common experience brought us closer to each other in community no matter how different our circumstances or prior experiences may have been. It gave us a platform from which to connect our own life experiences, understand each other better, and learn something new. Not to mention the fact that we had fun!
Over the next several months Placitas Community Library will be sponsoring Placitas Reads, a series of community reading events with the support of a grant from the American Library Association. The series is entitled “Color, Class, and Caste: The Other Social Distancing.” You will find more information about these events and the brilliantly written and acclaimed book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson in this newsletter. Like the students in my classroom, I think we can come together as a community of readers in this shared reading and in these events. We will learn more about ourselves and each other. We will share conversation and understanding around a vitally important topic.
I look forward to reading and talking with you!
– Mary Sue Houser