Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Art of Reading Aloud...

Reading aloud has always been a passion (and a secret source of pride) for me. I can clearly remember the excitement I felt in elementary school when our teacher announced that we were going to take out our books and do some reading. There were always those fellow students who groaned over this exercise... but I took great delight in the opportunity to bring words off the page by speaking them.

To my elementary school mind there were several "tiers" of readers. There were those the teacher called on as "starters"... these being the students who were not particularly good readers, but who needed the practice. And then there were, in my world of grade school, the "finishers"... the students who had superior reading ability, and who were called on to finish a reading when the "starter" had gone as far as he or she could--or as long as the teacher could stand their halting recitation.

I considered myself a "finisher." In fact, and I'm opening wide the door on my still overweening pride, I thought of myself as one of the classes' premier readers aloud of the written word.

I'm picturing myself moistening my prepubescent lips in anticipation of the teacher calling on me. I'm already starting to get into the part of the reading... readying myself to emote the character's feeling in the words I'll read with capable diction and appropriate inflection.

Sometimes reading aloud involved a passage of text... on other occasions, it meant reading the words of a specific character in a story. As in, the teacher assigning me to read Huck's part in chapter two of Huckleberry Finn. (And which, in addition to bringing the necessary diction and inflection to bear, I added just the right dose of dialect. Did I mention I was a "finisher"?)

So... what's the purpose of this stroll down my literary memory lane? Suffice it to say that I love to read, and that reading aloud has always been a pleasure as well. And "inhabiting" the character whose words I'm reading aloud has also a meaningful part of the experience for me. All of this got me thinking about two additional vignettes with which I'll close.

First, I woke up this morning reflecting on all of the times in my life I have heard myself and others read aloud from the Bible. From Sunday School classes to worship assemblies, I have spent a good portion of my time alongside my church family hearing the Scriptures read aloud. I've personally assigned adolescent boys sections of verses to read, and listened as they read their portion of the text to an assembled throng.

I've heard old men in a church read Scripture (let's say, the Creation account in Genesis 1) and their voices' maturity and timbre allows me to picture God speaking the very words they are reading.

My second reflection has to do with Jesus as a reader. Luke 4 tells us that Jesus is in the Nazareth synagogue on the Sabbath, when he's called on to read from Isaiah. As Jesus begins to read from Isaiah 6, he reads not just with great diction and inflection... but as the One whom the story is about. He is the main character. Jesus embodies and completes that which he is reading.

And all who hear Jesus read were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.

Now that's a "finisher." Amen...