"Ezra read [the Law] aloud. . .
and all the people [men and women—adults—who were able to understand] listened
attentively. . . The priests read from the Book of the Law of God, making it
clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
. . ‘Go and enjoy. . . This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'” Nehemiah 8:3-10
A supposed "triumph” in modern
education is the early and complete transition from being read to to reading
silently to oneself. Once
established as the preferred mode, silent reading is used all too frequently at
the detriment of other aspects of developing the mind and character for which
the gift of voice and the art of listening were designed. As a result, many adults so trained by their
own elementary educations have excellent reading fluency but are unable to understand
and apply challenging (and sometimes even simple) texts because they
automatically default to silent reading and try to read with understanding
without having cultivated "ears to hear.”
Suffering thus, they recoil from the sounds of silence and cease to
venture into the world of history, literature, and even the Holy Scriptures—the
world of ideas, principles, and purposes—for the fruitless exercise of reading without understanding.
Those who also have added
difficulties due to processing disabilities or visual impairments often shy
away from words on a page in a sense of self-preservation. In addition to being early sequestered within
their own minds by silent reading, many young readers are discouraged from
using aids to follow the text. Forced to
remove their fingers from the lines of text and their bookmarks from the page
too soon, many never develop the acuity to visually track the typeset further
compounding their frustration with reading.
If it helps to add the kinetic support of gliding your finger along the
lines of print, then by all means, do so.
Those familiar with the volumes
of the Christian History Library published by FACE (Christian History of the
Constitution, Teaching & Learning America’s Christian History, The
Christian History of the American Revolution, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, etc.)
know that these are not texts readily digested by a casual read—even by the
best of readers. Likewise, the classic
novels and epics suggested in the Noah Plan Literature Curriculum Guide are
often shunned as texts too long and difficult for students (and teachers), so
abridged editions or other titles are proposed.
Our current political climate and sad economic condition have many
pondering the need to revisit the texts that informed the minds of our Founders
and to read what they wrote in defense of the republic, as well as other great
records of history and liberty. These do
not come readily to the modern reader; The Federalist Papers, for instance, can
pose a daunting task to read and understand.
How do we approach the lofty
ideas, principles, and purposes inspired by the heart of God and crafted into
words by so many writers throughout the centuries? Why, Reading Aloud—to Yourself!
"As Horace Scudder writes,
Reading Aloud is ‘stronger than iron in welding souls together.’”1 Reading
Aloud not only binds individual souls together in a unity of ideas and
character, it binds ideas of consequence to our hearts and equips us with
internal understanding on which to act.
It builds our character, cultivates our conscience, and trains
our mental faculties. Reading Aloud
employs all the senses to rouse the mental faculties causing them to work
together to grasp the ideas and secure understanding. Reading Aloud also develops us as
storytellers able to excite emotions while conveying truths that will be
cherished, remembered, and perpetuated in each generation. These are reasons why we insist on reading
literature aloud to students even in high school.
Bringing a text to life and its
meaning to the forefront is also aided by knowing the author—his providential
setting, spheres of influence, character, and contributions. Who is he to tell this story, to make this
declaration, to pen these words? Reading
an overview of the story or text is also helpful to help gain a general
understanding of the "big picture” into which you will put the particulars of
the details you read. This prepares you
to center your thoughts and focus on the purposeful targets of the text. Books on the topic written for children or
youth can supply this preview. The
summations of gifted commentators and modern translations also serve well. Don’t think it cheating to read the end of
chapter notes and summaries before reading the chapter. And, Cliff’s Notes do have a place in
preparing to read with understanding but should never become a substitute for reading
the REAL story.
So as you are prompted by the
Spirit to be restored to the truths revealed in His Word, to His principles
manifest in documents of His-story, to His character portrayed in the lives of
literary characters, and to His love conveyed in the lines of poetry, do not
deny yourself these wonders—Go and enjoy! Do not
grieve but feed on the meat of the original sources, the full text, the
unmodified language. As a priest, like
Ezra, mount the platform and Read Aloud to Yourself—for the joy of the Lord is your strength!
1 Slater, Rosalie J. A Family Program for Reading Aloud. Chesapeake, VA: FACE. 6.