To some of you this is old news, but to others of you, like me about a year ago, this was slightly revolutionary.
Reading aloud. Calms the crazy, cultivates creativity and draws people closer. Who knew? Well, Sarah Mackenzie does and so did Jim Trelease before her. I confess I’m yet to read Jim’s book but have gleaned much knowledge and wisdom through his protege, Sarah.
It’s a given that, as a Christian, I do indeed turn to scripture and preaching of Gods word for answers to life’s quandaries. It’s my ‘Life Handbook’ if you will. But there are certainly times when, once I’ve received whatever it is Gods trying to show me, that I hear him call to my heart – trust, rest, enjoy the good gifts I’ve given you. And one of those gifts is stories. God himself is the Creator and therefore the creator of creativity. It doesn’t matter a jot if you don’t think you’ve got a creative bone in your body in the ‘traditional’ sense, others have written books enough to keep you reading a lifetime. Whole worlds are just lying there on your bookshelves waiting to be explored, hardships and heartbreaks to feel and restore, courage to be found in the darkest of places.
My intentions were of course aimed at my children’s reading development and enjoyment and yet a surprise was in store as this took hold of another part of my life.
My safe place, my comfort food of the literary world, has always been Harry Potter. I’m one of the originals who grew up with Harry and yes, “there will always be a home for [me] at Hogwarts” as J.K. Rowling said. It gave me refuge as I wrestled through puberty and friendships and working out what on earth we’re all here for. And now, years later, it still helps me fall asleep at night even after the most awful of days.
When the stunning illustrated editions were released my husband started reading them aloud to me, a few pages, each night before we went to sleep. We’d stop chat about work and kids and home and escape somewhere else, just us two for a little while. We’d share jokes and quotes during the day about what we’d read and look forward to the next instalment.
All too soon it finished and we had to look for something new. We thought we’d make a head start on books we could recommend to our kids when they are a little bigger and have fast fallen in love with the Igiby family, of the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson, with all its adventures and hilarity. It’s was a bumpy start with a new born arriving but we made a pact to read just two pages a night. A little progress each day is better than moving nowhere at all.
Then, all at once, we weren’t together as we lay our heads down to rest. Our baby daughter was taken ill and I had to stay with her in the hospital while my husband returned home to our son. Everything felt wrong, frightening and unsure. But one night I received a voice recording from my husband. He picked up our story where we’d left it and as I lay there on my plastic hospital bed awaiting the next set of observations for my daughter, I closed my eyes and we were safe at home for a couple of minutes. Or should I say, I was standing on the cliff tops over the roaring ocean, hearing the most transcendent sound of Leeli’s song at the Dragon Day Festival of Glipwood.
And from then for the rest of our separation of the hospital, we read to each other each night and went on adventures we couldn’t have found alone. It kept us together, it brought us joy, and most of all it gave us courage to trust the Maker had all things worked out and written down long before we got here.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
We often romanticise our lives and fall into believing real life should be that of works of fiction. But they are not. And yet, all our days are already written in someone’s story. We struggle to accept that truth if it isn’t what we would have planned for ourselves. I’ve certainly struggled with letting go of fantasy to face reality and differentiating between the two. However, there is a happy medium. Sharing stories, exploring journeys together, reading aloud. It provides an outlet to a world of beauty and growth in a safe place while being able to be present and focus on the reality of the rest of life. Put yourself in the shoes of another as you read and walk their road a little while. Grow in empathy for those different from you and teach each other the truths that you’ve read aloud together. It’s awkward for a little while, but trust me, you’ll love it.