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The Joy of Reading Out Loud

If you are like me, you quickly scan a blog to get a sense of its meaning. This is called “raking” by which your eyes can fly through a sentence by, in a sense, collecting the key nouns and verbs and ordering them for comprehension. You might not even be aware of the extent to which you practice raking; at least, I wasn’t until I started reading to my son.

He is only three months old, and so wide-eyed and curious about the world around him, including the books that I gently present to him for consideration. You can tell that he is excited because his arms flail about like he was trying to conduct three orchestras at once!

Of course, the words are very simple, arranged in short, repetitive sentences: If I were an owl … But not the hippopotamus … the catepillar was still hungry. My son responds to the intonation of my voice, slow and measured, as his eyes flutter around the bright pages like butterflies, information clinging to his memory like pollen upon the insect’s legs.

The other day, I came home from a difficult visit. I scooped up the boy, carried him upstairs, and we lay on our backs on the bed. Sleep, however, would not come. In an effort to calm the fussiness threatening to spill over into a tantrum, I picked up the closest book, Mary Oliver’s new poetry collection that had been lying in wait on my bedside table. I read the poem below out loud to him. It calmed us both; and so, I recommend it to you. Take the time to read out loud; experience the joy of learning, not just from the meaning of words, but in the way they sound.



Every spring I hear the thrush singing in the glowing woods / he is only passing through. His voice is deep, then he lifts it until it seems to fall from the sky / I am thrilled / I am grateful / Then, by the end of morning, he’s gone, nothing but silence out of the tree where he rested for a night / And this I find acceptable / Not enough is a poor life. But too much is, well, too much / Imagine Verdi or Mahler every day, all day. It would exhaust anyone.

From A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. Copyright 2012 by Mary Oliver.

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.


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