Thursday, 7 July 2016

Finding your long lost reading voice - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

More and more these days, parents are under huge pressure to perform. The expectations placed on the shoulders of new parents are almost as colossal as having to shoulder the bulk of the entire earth at times as you see the perfect parents depicted in your Waitrose magazine, hiring a quaint little yurt somewhere in the middle of nowhere for the entire summer, or being paraded on TV through any number of cheesy faux-reality shows.

There is at least one place that parents get a chance to shine, to perform, to rediscover a talent that they may have believed was lost for good.

Reading aloud.

Quietly ask yourself when was the last time you HAD to read aloud, that is read something out to someone else as clearly as possible. Maybe you have to do this regularly at work, or perhaps the last time you read anything out loud was at school. Most talented writers will tell you that they regularly read their own work out loud, purely to gauge how it sounds in their own voice rather than just their inner voice.

Reading out loud to a child isn't easy. In most things children demand perfection and Charlotte is no exception. She regularly (quite brutally) criticises my doodling and drawing. She's scathing about my Skating (the flipping CHEEK of it!) As for fashion sense? Probably not even a good idea to go there. But I think I won the tiniest victory when it came to reading out loud.

We're working our way through the books featured at the top of this article. Yes, good old Harry (bless him), juggling the weighty tome of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" isn't easy at the best of times, but to read a book like that aloud takes a bit more effort than you'd think. I remember breezing through the book when it was first published, around the time when Potter mania was at its peak and just about everywhere you looked, you would see people toting their own copy of that red and gold cover, desperate to find out what happened next in the wizarding world. For what it's worth, the big thick book could've done with being a good few chapters shorter (christ, doesn't it DRAG at the beginning) but once the boy wizard is back at Hogwarts it's full steam ahead.

Finding my reading voice for the Harry Potter books has been a challenge. When Charlotte's diet solely consisted of picture books, with a smattering of shorter chapter stuff if she wanted it, it was easy to dip into a book, rattle it out a few times gaining more and more practice each time, and perfect each reading turning it almost into a sweet little performance piece (I still say that this is probably the only reason I wasn't booed horribly off the 'stage' when Charlotte and I read a selection of our favourite books out loud at Mostly Books once).

With the bigger thicker stuff, you more or less get one chance to find your rhythm and pace, and to find the right voice for the narrative, and if you're really feeling flashy, for the various characters that crop up in the story.

I've been told off for reading Hermione as a tad too prissy and posh, I've been pilloried for reading Ron as a sort of lackadaisical mumbler and I've been really given grief for reading Harry as a slightly moody sulky teen (which, by the time you get into "The Order of the Phoenix", you really do see more and more from his character).

Some people do not find reading aloud easy. I'm one of them, and I am naturally not the world's clearest speaker. Even when I'm reading aloud in the confines of our own home, to my beloved daughter, I still feel like everyone else in the world can hear and can judge.

Surprisingly though, it is one of those 'tasks' that comes with being a parent that is a joyful one, and one that reaps its own rewards when an exciting chapter drives your reading on and imbues you with newfound enthusiasm and energy for something that not nearly enough people get to do in the normal course of their lives.

Reading out loud is great, do it more. Win at it but also readily accept that it really isn't as easy as it sounds.