Wonderful Times of Reading Aloud

It has always been a joy to hear my sister Phyllis read aloud.  Till my last days, I will cherish a few days during school Christmas vacation in 1961.  Phyllis was enjoying reading Great Expectations in her ninth grade English class and offered to read a few pages aloud. Daddy was working second shift at the paper mill, so once he left and the remains of the noon meal were cleared away, we settled in the cozy living room for a reading.  I would have been eleven, Billy, eight, and Connie and Marilyn, two and a few months old.  Enraptured by the story of Pip, the cruel Estella, and the mad Miss Havisham, I would have probably saved the book first had the house caught fire.  I loved the kindly Jo and despised Mrs. Jo, his mean sister.  Phyllis read for several hours as the babies played on the floor in the warm front room, enjoying being in the middle of us all clustered together around the reader.  We broke only long enough to get a simple supper together and do evening chores.  Soon we were back in place, where she held us till bedtime, happy captives.

The next day, we rushed through chores to be free for reading again, settling in as soon as Daddy left.  Phyllis read on and on, as we did whatever chores we could that didn’t, interfere with her reading, folding laundry, ironing, watching the babies.   Mother hemmed a skirt and hand-worked buttonholes in a blouse.  Mother just felt we couldn’t through another afternoon listening to Phyllis read.

The next day, and the next, Phyllis read as we hung on every word about foolish, arrogant Pip.  Finally, late on the fourth day, Phyllis finished Great Expectations,

leaving me questioning and hungering for more.  Why had Miss Havisham gone to so much trouble to be cruel?  How could Pip be so ungrateful and foolish?  What happened afterwards?

Phyllis read us many more books, to my great joy, introducing me to some great literature.Great Expec

40 thoughts on “Wonderful Times of Reading Aloud

  1. Exactly how Dickens was intended to be read, though his readers had to wait for the next chapter! ‘Great Expectations was the thirteenth novel of Charles Dickens. … Its initial publication was in All the Year Round, a weekly periodical founded and owned by Charles Dickens. Great Expectations appeared in All the Year Round for nine monthly installments, from December of 1860 until August 1861.’
    I have to confess my first experience of the story was a television serialisation; I had nightmares about Miss Haversham. But all his stories are excellent for television dramas.


  2. I can imagine your pleasure. Your sister has a very soothing voice. I’d listen to her read to me too.
    For about a year, I read to my friend Tori (no longer with us) as she rocked her baby to sleep. She’d settle into her rocker and call me, and I’d read to her over the phone. We read many books that year. Eventually we became roommates, and many nights, we’d continue this, although by then, the baby was more toddler, and so she’d just ask me to read wherever I was in my book, no matter skipping nights and chapters.

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  3. A skilled reader can really make a book come alive. Great Expectations is a wonderful book too. It was a set text for me at high school and then again at university. My favorite character was always Joe Gargery (“What larks, Pip!”) I had no time for Estella, though. I thought she was insufferably stuck-up and I couldn’t understand what Pip saw in her beyond a pretty face.


  4. My grandmother used to read to us, but she read a chapter then made us read a chapter. My favorites were Charlotte’s Web and Miss Minerva And William Green Hill. I need to get those out again…

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  5. This made me smile an picture you all there with eyes wide open, waiting to hear more while doing what you were supposed to do. It’s beautiful. It for sure made Phyllis feel good to read to you all and see your excitement and it made you all feel good too. And the chores were done too…


  6. I still remember when my mother read Ivanhoe to me. We would take turns. I read to my children and they have read to their children.


  7. THIS is wonderful! And, see what it did for ya? Turned you into a blogger with fun, fascinating and fabulous stories YOU write!! Hats off to Phyllis! Reading to young folks is one of the most important jewels one gives to their future!

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  8. Wonderful memories! I loved Great Expectations. It’s one of my favorites from childhood. Reading together is always a special thing in families. My grandfather read to me when I was very young. I still cherish those memories.

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      • It’s so good when reading is part of a family tradition. Are you familiar with “Reach Out and Read”? It’s one of the organizations I try to support. They’ve arranged with doctors in lower-income community areas to actually “prescribe” books for children. Studies have shown how much children benefit from reading, so the groups strives to educate the parents on the importance of books. They also accept donations of children’s books. It’s one of the most worth-while organizations out there, in my opinion. If you have a chance, do check it out. Or maybe you already have. 🙂

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