Week #2 (Part 1) – WRAD Blogging Challenge

Feb 23, 2014 by

It’s week #2 of the WRAD Blogging Challenge, and this week’s prompt is a series of questions to be answered by both the blogger and a child. My child, Jeremy,  is nearly 21 years old and is currently living in Japan to study abroad for a year. Reading has always been a key ingredient in our lives, and he and I have shared many wonderful hours sharing books that I have read to him or that we have read together. We frequently discuss books and make suggestions to one another on titles of interest.

When I spoke with Jeremy about this blog challenge and World Read Aloud Day, he shared with me a realization he had in elementary school when I was reading aloud the Harry Potter books with him. While reading, he and I would debate the pronunciation of the different characters’ names and what types of voices were best suited to them. Apparently it was the varied perspectives we had that helped him to draw the conclusion that although various readers are seeing the same words on the page, the way each of us interprets them will be different. Powerful, huh? Reading aloud is without a doubt a critical component in growing readers!

Here is how my son and I each answered the questions:

Dalila: I think everyone in the world should read A LOT! Every day! I think reading is the key to creating cooperative, productive communities. I believe reading builds knowledge AND empathy. There is a saying I came across in a book (for which I can no longer remember the attribution) and the following idea is shared: People who read live more. My students and I have talked about this on several occasions and agree that through a book you can experience places and people and activities that you might not otherwise, which means that you actually get to do more living through books.  Because of this concept, I believe people who read are more content because they get to explore experiences, feelings, and ideas that enrich their lives.

Jeremy (my son): I think everyone in the world should read a book that is of a genre they would not normally choose. That is how I discovered my love for non-fiction, specifically autobiographies and biographies.

Dalila: If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be my father because he had a wonderful voice and made whatever he was reading sound interesting. He read to me A LOT, even when I was a teenager and an adult.

Jeremy: If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me, I think my choice would depend on the book. I’d like to think the author’s own interpretation would be the most interesting. But then again, how could it get any better than the Jim Dale reading of the Harry Potter series?

I’d also like to think that J.R.R. Tolkien would have been both captivating and relaxing to listen to, seeing as Tolkien stories are at the top of the list of my all time favorites. Hearing him read his own works would definitely be an opportunity I would not turn down if he were still alive today.

As for foreign stories, though I cannot yet fluently read complex novels in Japanese, I study partly by reading short stories. I also watch a lot of anime cartoons and there is one voice actor of whom I am a huge fan. He voices the 9-tailed Fox on the anime, Naruto.

There are so many more famous voices to choose from! To name a few others whom I think would be fun to listen to: Billy Connolly, Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams, Orson Welles, Kevin Spacey, William Shakespeare, Christopher Hitchens, etc. (The list could certainly go on for a while.)

Dalila: When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is the giant in Boy Soup or When Giant Caught a Cold by Loris Lesynski. The reason I love reading this character is because I make his voice sound large and loud, but he also has a cold, so I make him sound like he has a stuffy nose. Kids love this character! I do, too!

Jeremy: When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is…
I like voicing characters that are in books with no movie adaptation. Try as I might, after seeing the movie, it is hard to separate my own imagination of the voice from the one given to the character by whichever actor happens to have received the part.

Often, when I read the first line of dialogue for a character, the voice in my head is a sort of neutral version of my own voice, but then as the story continues, I’m able to create a much more nuanced and complex version of the character in my head to the point where I want to try saying some of the lines out loud instead of just in my head.

Dalila: The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is fiction, especially historical fiction, and even more specifically, books that are set during the Civil War era.

Jeremy: The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is…
Lately I have been reading a lot of non-fiction. Right now I am juggling two non-fiction works, as well as a third fiction work, which I have been reading for quite some time and am nearly finished. The first non fiction book is a short biography of the life of Thomas Jefferson, and the second is called The Greatest Show on Earth, detailing the science behind the theory of evolution. These books were written by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, respectively. The third book is a work of fiction by Murakami Haruki, a Japanese author whose books are so famous that they have been translated into almost 50 languages around the world! My favorite short story of all time, On Meeting My 100% Woman One Fine April Morning is by Murakami Haruki. I cannot yet read his pieces in Japanese, so I regrettably must rely on the English translations, but one of my longterm goals for my Japanese study is to be able to read complicated novels, such as his, in the language in which they were meant to be read. The story of his I am reading now is called, 1Q84. The title is kind of a play on words in Japanese. The reading in Japanese would be, “ichi-kyu-hachi-yon”, which literally translates as “1-9-8-4″. The play on words then, is that in the English alphabet, the pronunciation for the letter “Q” is the same as the Japanese pronunciation for the number 9. This play on words holds special significance in the story.

Dalila: My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to is listening to the characters come to life. It’s like they are real when you can hear them. It makes the story engaging and it feels as though you are entering a different world.

Jeremy: My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to is that you can just close your eyes and allow your brain to imagine the story as it is unfurled. The best part about being read to is that, in that way, it can be interactive between two people. When I was younger, my mom and I would read the Harry Potter books together before bed. We talked about the story as it was happening, made predictions about what would happen next, and worked together to construct the character’s voices and personalities. The stories were still slightly challenging for me at that age, so it was nice to not have to struggle through some words. Moreover, when you are read to by someone who is particularly talented, it is much easier to understand unknown words through context clues than if you were to read on your own.
When listening to a book on tape, it is not always so easy to imagine your own voices because you can’t very well talk to the person who has already recorded the CD! However, the recorded voice can help you to form your own images of the characters. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, as narrated on audiobook by Rob Ingles, is one of my favorites because Ingles is able to vary the voices of the characters so well that it becomes clear who is talking after only a few chapters.

My favorite time to listen to audiobooks is when I am doing something particularly tedious or meticulous like cleaning or driving long distances. Listening to someone else read, as you follow the story in your head, is a great way to continue a repetitive task without getting bored easily. It is also a great way to pass the time, and can sometimes be easier than music for me to listen to for long periods.

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Some thoughts about answering these questions. Learning more about my son’s views about reading and reading aloud only served to cement my strong feelings about the importance of reading to young children, and continuing to share stories throughout our lives. My son has introduced me to the beautiful writing of Murakami Haruki and recommends books he thinks I will enjoy. We often talk about books. I am convinced that this reading dialogue carries into his adult life and connects us because of the bond that started when he was a newborn in his crib and I was reading The Little Engine That Could or Horton Hears a Who! while Jeremy’s arms and legs moved about in delight. My voice, a story, and a child developing language and forming ideas- this was the building block upon which Jeremy’s literate life has grown, but when my son shared his answers to his questions, I thought about the joy that has come out of this habit of reading and reading aloud. My son and I have great memories of the times we’ve shared reading together and talking about reading. As I indicated in the first question, reading makes for content people. Our lives are richer because of books and reading!

(Note: In “Part 2″ of this week’s WRAD blog prompt, I share the views of my third graders.)

 

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