The spoken word is our first language. As babies, we tune in to our mothers' voices, learning to decipher meaning in her intonations and words. Learning aurally is far more natural - and pleasurable - for humans, than reading, a more challenging and laborious process for our minds. This is the secret behind why reading aloud is so powerful and transformative.
Meghan Cox Gurdon, a celebrated essayist, Wall Street Journal children's book reviewer, and Visitation mom, enthralled an audience of mothers, daughters, faculty and staff at the January 23 Rosemary Hannan Mother-Daughter Book Night with her research and insights about the "miraculous" power of reading aloud.
From the time of Homer, people have told stories to one another to share lessons and connect. Despite vast technological innovations since then, the simple act of reading aloud may still be the best tool we have for forging bonds, sharing information, and developing minds. Ms. Gurdon pointed to neuroscience research that shows that scans of the brains of young children listening to stories while looking at static images show far more neural activity than those of children watching videos (which show virtually no cognitive activity, merely visual processing). She also related the results of an educational intervention in England which saw struggling students make leaps of progress after simply being read challenging material at a quick pace for several weeks. Beyond their academic progress, the students also loved class - they were eager to get to school every day because they enjoyed listening.
As our society grapples with the unintended consequences of the ubiquity of mobile technology, Gurdon contends that reading aloud may be just the antidote we are looking for: free, universal, joyful, relationship-nurturing, and brain-activating.
The "enchanted hour" ended with a standing ovation for Ms. Gurdon, who signed books for attendees at a dessert reception following the talk. Copies of her book, The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction, are available in the Cub Shoppe.