World Read Aloud Day 2019

February first is many things this year: the first of the month, and Imbolc, and the first day of Black History Month, 2019, and Langston Hughes’ birthday, too. It’s also World Read Aloud Day 2019, a shifting Day that celebrates something awfully important and, I think, dovetails beautifully with this year’s other February celebrations.

Reading aloud is a strange and wonderful thing: a vital step on every person’s road to reading silently, a link in the chain of community. Writers are often told to read their own works out loud, a part of the editing process, but finished words beg to be read aloud, too, words and rhythms savored and tasted and loved and shared, as one can only really do aloud. Hell, audio books surge in popularity, and perhaps that’s part of the charm: the storyteller’s voice links the dreamer with the dream, and forges community of listeners. (Ironically, I…can’t stand listening to audiobooks. This may change, but for now? They’re just not my jive. I can barely handle a 20-minute podcast.)

It’s perhaps bizarre that I have a passion for reading (other people’s) poetry aloud, and even odder that I do it well, since I am severely dyslexic and cannot syllabify to save my hide—but maybe it’s linked to all the years in which I couldn’t read and my mother read to me. I’ve volunteered every chance I had to read poetry in classes, in English and in Spanish; I participated in a Dante marathon, reading one small segment of the Inferno, which we read, between us, in a multiplicity of languages, in its entirety there at the Foreign Language Building. Reading aloud is a marvelous thing, a sharing and a building of community—and, as it so happens, it’s pretty great for both the reader and the listener, too, and can help support literacy in folks learning to read.

So, here it’s World Read Aloud Day, for like another hour and fifteen minutes in central time, and for however long it may be in your time zone, which means that there might only be time to read to your cat, but you can definitely read about the importance of reading. So, for instance, you can check out Tips for Supporting Reading Skills at Home as well as the evidence behind said tips (and, if either of those goes blank due to another shutdown, well, here’s the Wayback Machine, and also get in touch with your reps).

And, since it’s also Black History Month, and Langston Hughes’ birthday: why not start your celebration with our very own American masters? Read Langston Hughes; check out Willie Perdomo. Read Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X aloud, or listen to the audiobook, which is a 2019 Odyssey Honor Book for best in youth audiobooks. Check out Eve L. Ewing’s Electric Arches; read Justin Phillip Reed’s Indecency, which won the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry. Celebrate words: read them aloud, and savor them, and share them, with the air or your cat or another person, because words deserve to be heard, and shared, and we deserve to remember the beauty of the written word, spoken.