The Enchanted Hour

The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction: part 1

Meghan Cox Gurdon


     The pleasures of reading aloud to our children are obvious for most of us who have experienced it from the perspective of the child and from the role of the parent. It was a special part of parenthood for me and I missed it when our children could read and understand it as well by themselves and became impatient to wait until the next night find out what came next. When we read at bedtime, it was an important part of our routine. It was an escape from whatever the day was for each of us; a time to share and a welcome transition to bed and sleep. The characters and incidents in the book often provided a safe remove to discuss what would not have been discussed otherwise or take us off in other directions. Some nights were better than others, and life is busier and more distracted now than it was, but that makes this time more important – not less.


Evan and Robbie reading[1]

  Meghan Cox Gurdon and her husband have five children. She brings an emotional attachment to this subject from having been read to and from reading to her children. While this is the driving force behind her book, she also shares many reasons, supported by research, for the importance to reading to our children. She writes as a parent, not as a scientist. Mrs. Gurdon has been the Wall Street Journal’s children’s book reviewer since 2005.  


    There can’t be many topics as warm as this and listing the reasons to read to our children is far too cold and clinical. Instead, I will post excerpts over the next few weeks. Some of these will be modified to make them understandable out of context. While most of us skim to read quickly, I suggest that you try reading these aloud, as if you were reading them to someone. Reading aloud is like writing by hand. It slows us down to provide more time to think. 



  Reading to children during infancy and early childhood gives them more of exactly what they need: more loving adult attention, more language, and more opportunities to experience mutual engagement and empathy. Picture books enhance the time parents and children spend together.



  From Morten Christiansen who runs the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Cornell University. Ambient talking seems to do little or nothing for babies and toddlers. What helps babies most is having people speak and read with them in a responsive way. What millennia of human experience and innumerable modern studies show is that they learn from us. “There’s a lot of language learning that’s social in nature. One of the first things that we learn as children is, actually, the social part of it.” What matters for the child’s learning is contingency and responsiveness.  

Bloxham 003

    Reading with children makes reading and writing social. Speech is inherently social. Young children have a drive to develop receptive language and speech so they can communicate. Learning to read and write take longer and don’t provide the immediate reward provided by a single spoken word. Jointly experiencing the marvel of the printed word helps create the drive for children to learn to read and write.  



The Enchanted Hour: Part 2


Not ALL Screen Time IS Equal: Reflections and Perspectives on the Use of Electronics

Tummy Time


The Man He Became


How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency

James Tobin

Franklin D. Roosevelt, seldom seen as a polio survivor, with Ruthie Bye and Fala, 1941

There are a few stories interwoven in this book. It starts with information about polio, immunity to polio, the change in the disease as hygiene changed, and postulates how Roosevelt contracted the disease. Continue reading


David Wright wrote this autobiography about the influence of deafness from the time that he became deaf until he graduated from college. He was born in South Africa in 1920 and became totally deaf in 1927 due to scarlet fever. He states that he was fortunate in many ways. At seven, he was old enough to have learned to speak and to read, but he was still young enough to focus on mastering his disability and not become a victim. Continue reading

Reader, Come Home


Marianne Wolf
Reader, Come Home is about the importance of deep reading. It discusses the consequences of the decline in reading deeply on important issues. It explains what is necessary to develop and apply the ability to read deeply. Continue reading

Superforecasting The Art and Science of Prediction

Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner

We cannot avoid forecasting. Everything that we do is based on what we expect the outcome to be. Some forecasting is short-term and primarily preconscious such as planning a movement while taking into consideration the positions and movements of others around you. We have been making these kinds of predictions for millions of years and we apply the same processes to skills for which we have not evolved such as driving. Continue reading

The American Spirit

David McCullough

After writing his first book which was about the Johnstown flood, David McCullough decided that the stories that he wanted to research and share were about character. His books have shown what is good in people and what can be accomplished especially when people work together, while making sure that we can identify with them by showing that they were also human and, like all of us, had flaws.


He emphasizes that they did not live in the past; they lived in their present. The American Spirit is a selection of his speeches. Because they were spoken and because they were brief, the messages are explicit. The following are some of his words that caused me to stop and ponder. I hope that they have the same effect on you. Continue reading