When I was a kid, I loved to read. Some of my best childhood memories are from the library: I remember going there with my mother, and later by myself, and hoarding books, as many as I could carry. When I got back home, I sat down with a pile of books to the left of me and read through them, one by one, until they all were in a pile to the right of me. Some of them I barely thumbed my way through, others I read every word intently. One day I read only one book, but it was the longest I had read ever — I think it was The Animals of Farthing Wood. Other days I managed to read (or “read”) twenty books, so I had to go back to the library as soon as possible.
One New Year’s Eve, there was an interview with someone from the local library in my local paper. She mentioned that the record this year was 200 books (or some numbers like that, I can’t remember) — and I knew it was me.
But then there were years of not reading. Of playing basketball. Of doing anything else. And then I discovered reading again (there should be a law against reading Zarathustra as a teenager, you get all big-headed and quasi intellectual). The summer before starting university, I stayed at my uncle’s house for a month, and what did I do? Listened to the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide. Read and re-read Catch-22. And, first and foremost, read Shakespeare and Beckett’s so-called trilogy loud for myself.
I read loud with the only one I loved at the time: myself…
Now, 17 years later, I read aloud to my loved ones more or les every night. I is standard procedure for the boys, and they always prefer me doing it to anyone else. Perhaps it’s the one thing where they know they’ll get my full attention always, or perhaps they sense how much I enjoy it, or perhaps they just like books. The oldest one doesn’t like to read himself that much, but he has heard the Harry Potter audiobooks series several times, in Norwegian, Danish and English.
And of course, they always quarrel about who should be read for first.
Occasionally, I read for my wife. Some days ago, I read her a poem by Ludvig Holberg, and that made her day (although I read it late at night): her gut reaction is always feminist, to see things from women’s perspective, she even dislikes the fact that my heroes in this blog are all men. (No, I won’t take that discussion here.) This was a feminist poem written by a man almost 300 year ago!
When you read a text out loud, the words come to life. Words on a page are like musical notes: you can read them if you know how, you might even be able to sense, almost hear the music, but still it’s so much better to be there when the music is created, when the words are communicated. I mean, TED talks would be a lot cheaper and less time-consuming if they just made booklets instead. But they don’t.
For the same reason, I will continue to read for and with my kids my kids until they beg me to stop, I embarrass them in front of their girlfriend. (Or boyfriend.)
My wife will have to put up with it.