reading aloud

I read aloud to my daughter every night before bed. We started with board books (Good Night Moon--natch--plus A Snowy Day and several alphabet books). Then we read Beatrix Potter and A.A. Milne. We read picture books as she got older, ones with increasingly involved storylines and expansive vocabularies. When we graduated to reading aloud chapter books, we covered the classics first: Mary Poppins, Secret Garden, Understood Betsy. Then I chose the books I had loved as a child like books by Roald Dahl and Frank L. Baum and books I had discovered as a fifth-grade teacher like books by Polly Horvath. Now she often reads her own books, but we still read aloud to her every night.

And that reading aloud has been wonderful practice for reading my own work to an audience. I recently read a short story at a coffee shop, one of those that serves no alcohol, has mismatched chairs, and smells faintly of patchouli. The microphone was the biggest anomaly from my nightly routine of reading aloud, but I still was able to apply everything I know about keeping someone's interest: read slowly when it's complicated, read quickly when it's exciting, vary your voice for the dialogue but don't actually "do voices," and look around every once in a while to make sure your listener(s) hasn't fallen asleep.

Even though, when reading to a child, that's the whole idea.