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From the time my children were tiny, reading aloud has been a fixed pleasure in our lives. I remember sitting on the couch with a stack of books that my little ones had gleefully selected, hauled over, and handed to me. In my mind’s eye I can still see them climbing up beside me and settling in for a cozy late-morning read-aloud session.
Over the past twenty years the scenery has changed, the books have changed, the listeners have changed—but the enjoyment has remained, and even deepened.
Reading aloud is a basic mainstay for homeschoolers using the Charlotte Mason Method. It is a powerful way to communicate living ideas and to model great writing styles even before the children can read fluently for themselves.
And after the children have reached the stage where they can read fluently, we have the privilege and responsibility to help them learn to read aloud well for the pleasure of those listening.
“If reading is to be pleasant to the listeners, the reading itself must be distinct, easy, and sympathetic. And here is something more which parents must do for their children themselves, for nobody else will get them into the habit of reading for the pleasure of other people from the moment when they can read fluently at all” (Vol. 5, p. 220).
Reading aloud well is an art form—one that we can help our children cultivate and one that we can keep cultivating, ourselves. Charlotte had some wonderfully practical tips to help us read for the pleasure of others. Let’s take a look at those tips together over the next few weeks.
The Main Faults
One of the biggest problems I had when reading aloud was huge, gaping yawns that seemed to come from nowhere and interrupt at the most inopportune times. So I was surprised and delighted to find that Charlotte addressed that problem!
First, she listed three main faults that seem to be common when people read aloud:
“After indistinct and careless enunciation, perhaps the two most trying faults in a reader are, the slowness which does not see what is coming next, and stumbles over the new clause, and the habit of gasping, like a fish out of water, several times in the course of a sentence” (Vol. 5, pp. 220, 221).
Those are the main faults that we will be addressing in this series.
- Indistinct and careless enunciation
- Stumbling over words and phrases
- Gasping or yawning
So what was Charlotte’s solution to my awkward yawns and gasps?
Tip #1: Inhale through your nose, not your mouth.
“The last fault is easy of cure: ‘Never breathe through the lips, but always through the nostrils, in reading,’ is a safe rule: if the lips be closed in the act of taking breath, enough air is inhaled to inflate the lungs, and supply ‘breath’ to the reader: if an undue supply is taken in by mouth and nostrils both, the inconvenience is caused which relieves itself in gasps” (Vol. 5, p. 221).
After Charlotte pointed out this tendency, I discovered that, yes, I had the bad habit of breathing in through my mouth before each sentence. Once I concentrated on making that one change—breathing in through my nose instead of my mouth—the yawns stopped. Try it; it works!
Next time we’ll look at Charlotte’s tips to help us read smoothly without stumbling.