Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Art of Reading Aloud

I love to read, but I also love to collect old books. Victorian era books were beautifully bound and make very pretty decorations. My two year old already loves books and enjoys being read to. But I have to admit that reading out loud is indeed a lost art. The following article was taken out of an 1861 Godey's Lady's Book.

"Reading aloud is one of those exercises which combine mental and muscular effort, and hence has a double advantage.

To read aloud well, a person should not only understand the subject, but should hear his own voice, and feel within him that every syllable was distinctly enunciated, while there is an instinct presiding which modulates the voice to the number and distance of the hearers. Every public speaker ought to be able to tell whether he is distinctly heard by the farthest auditor in the room; if he is not, it is from a want of proper judgment and observation.

Reading aloud helps to develop the lungs just as singing does, if properly performed. The effect is to induce the drawing of a long breath every once in a while, oftener and deeper than of reading without enunciating. these deep inhalations never fail to develop the capacity of the lungs in direct proportion to their practice.

Common consumption begins uniformly with imperfect, insufficient breathing; it is the characteristic of the disease that the breath becomes shorter and shorter through weary months, down to the close of life, and whatever counteracts that short breathing, whatever promotes deeper inspirations is curative to that extent, inevitably and under all circumstances. Let any person make the experiment by reading this page aloud, and in less than three minutes the instinct of a long breath will show itself. This reading aloud develops a weak voice and makes it sonorous.. it has great efficiency, also, in making the tones clear and distinct, freeing them from that annoying hoarseness which the unaccustomed reader exhibits before he has gone over half a page, when he has to stop and clear away, to the confusion of himself as much as that of the subject.

This loud reading when properly done, has a great agency in inducing vocal power, on the same principle that muscles are strengthened by exercise; those of voice-making organs being no exception to the general rule. Hence, in many cases, absolute silence diminishes the vocal power, just as the protracted non-use of the arm of the Hindoo devotee at length paralyzes it forever. the general plan, in appropriate cases, is to read aloud in a conversational tone, thrice a day, for a minute, or two, or three at a time, increasing a minute every other day, until half an hour is thus spent at a time, thrice a day, which is to be continued until the desired object is accomplished. Managed thus, there is safety and efficiency as a uniform result.

As a means, then, of health, of averting consumption, of being social and entertaining in any company, as a means of showing the quality of the mind, let reading aloud be considered an accomplishment far more indispensable than that of smattering French, or lisping Italian, or dancing cotillions, gallopades, polkas, and quadrilles." Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine February 1861


Unknown said...

I have always read aloud to my children, since they were conceived and still oldest just turned 16. I love the fact they still enjoy having mom read them a story, even though they are all avid readers like I am.

Anonymous said...

As a child I always had to read aloud at some point, either in school or because of some sort of lesson my mother wanted to teach me. But now that I'm older and out of practice, I think I'm horrible at it!

Nicole Green said...

I really enjoyed your post and am dying to know if you have the full citation for the article you copied into your post on reading aloud. If you do can you PLEASE e-mail it to me. I am doing research on the period and reading aloud practices and would love to be able to use the article.

sarahanne said...

Hi Nicole,

I do have the full article and will be happy to pass it along to you. It may take me a few days to find it.