Since becoming an author I've given a few readings, and all were wonderful for different reasons, and each brought memories of being read to and readings at the beginnings and endings of life.
As I read and looked around the room, I was reminded how my fourth sister and I would listen with rapture when our third sister read to us. My third sister was expressive and animated, a natural actor, and we'd all be in bliss sprawled on the lawn, or across a bed, or on the living room floor. We didn't have a television, and her readings were equal to the magic we experienced listening to radio dramas like Suspense and Johnny Dollar. Even the few illustrations in the Classic Stories for Children couldn't match the richness of the images that rose from her reading.
I recall how my son's father read to me when I was restricted to a hospital bed, pregnant with what would become a premature baby (he’s now 20). I spent nearly two weeks in a labor-and-delivery room, lying solely on my left side trying to prevent contractions, and Jeff would read to me, those stories soothing against the constant thrum of the baby's heart monitor, the constant fear and threat of too-early delivery. And several years before that in another hospital setting, as my father began a long journey toward illness and death, my mother read as he lay in a state of half-consciousness. I don't remember what she read—it could've been a Korean newspaper, the Bible, or an L.L. Bean catalog, but her voice gave us something to focus on, a calm of purpose when fate seemed unusually unkind.
We all know the value of reading and of books, but there is something truly unique about being read a story. Not only does it evoke the innocence of when we were little enough to be read to at home and in the library, It allows for stillness of the body while the mind is guided to other places and times and into the minds of characters. I think of how readings have long been incorporated into religious services and other significant rituals. It makes me think I ought to listen more to reading, podcasts and audiobooks. I ought to turn off the dull obvious television and ask to be read to at night, to let the images and sounds of a book read by a beloved stir my dreams.