My two most favorite books in the world are also the two best books I've ever found for reading aloud: The Hobbit and Watership Down. I've read The Hobbit more times than I can remember, largely due to the fact that I've been reading it out loud to my kids or to their classmates at their school for years. It's a wonderful book written so expertly that the voices of the characters seem to come to life all on their own. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows anything about Tolkein. He was a linguist, after all. And he wrote The Hobbit as a bedtime story for his kids. He'd write some and read it to them in the evenings and, then, write some more. In fact, if it hadn't been for The Hobbit, I'm not sure The Lord of the Rings would ever have seen print. But that's a whole other topic.
Watership Down, which I haven't read aloud nearly as often as I should, started as a story that Richard Adams was telling his children in the car on a long trip. It developed orally. Eventually, he wrote it down. I'm sure the book has a deeper richness of description than did that initial oral tale, but it still carries the fingerprints of a story meant to be told aloud.
Sure, there are plenty of other books that are good reads out loud, but none that I've ever found that beg to be read aloud like these two do.
Now, I'm no linguist, and I'm certainly no Tolkein, but I did write The House on the Corner with the oral quality of it in mind. I've gone back and changed things which read just fine in my head but were awkward on the tongue. Besides reading the book to my own kids at home, I also tried the first dozen or so chapters out on my kids' classes at their school. Chapter 4, which read just fine in my head, was a real mess out loud. I stumbled through it every time I read it. That chapter has been completely re-worked since my initial writing. I'm still not sure if it works out loud, so I'll be trying it out, again, soon, in the classes at school. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets another re-write for the second edition of the book.
No, I don't think it's necessary for an author to write with the aural quaility of his work in mind. Some books wouldn't even be appropriate to be written that way. However, I did want to write a book that parents would find inviting to be read aloud and that kids would ask to have read to them. I think I've succeeded. I'm as sure as I can be from the reactions of the kids I've read it to, something over a hundred of them. And I'll be back in my first class reading, again, tomorrow. I'd really love to get feedback from parents as to whether it works for them as a bedtime story.
You are right on target with this observation. It is amazing how much difference it makes.ReplyDelete