The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon

So, it’s no real secret that I love Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook (and by the way, a new edition is being released in September— you better believe I’ve already preordered mine!). So, when a dear friend told me she had seen a book I’d probably love sitting front-and-center on the counter of our local bookstore, I turned around immediately to buy it.

And y’all, The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction is inspiring, too! Meghan Cox Gurdon has written this with a great combination of both personal anecdotes about reading aloud with her own children and data, statistics, and insights from current research around brain development, technology, and reading aloud. I marked an incredible number of passages for my own future reference or to share with my husband. Gurdon also includes 11 pages of recommended titles for read-aloud!

Keep reading for some of my favorite quotes from The Enchanted Hour, and check out your own copy if you get a chance… Be prepared— it’s quite motivating to get you to change routines at your house completely in order to make more time and space for reading aloud, and therefore, bonding and connecting, with your family members of all ages!

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Select Quotes from The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon

“Where the screen tends to separate family members by sending each into his own private virtual reality, reading together draws people closer and unites them. Sitting with a book and a companion or two, we are transported to realms of imagination in warm physical proximity to one another…

Where the infinite jostling possibilities of the touch screen make us feel scatterbrained, a story read aloud engages our minds in deep, sustained attention… The experience bathes children of all ages in torrents of words, images, and syntactical rhythms that they might not get anywhere else. It brings joy, engagement, and profound emotional connection for children, teens, adults— everybody.” (page xv)

“‘A tsunami of neurochemical benefits gets unleashed when a parent and child cuddle together over a book. Stress and anxiety downshift, for starters. As soon as the parent puts his or her arms around the child hormones flood their bloodstreams, relaxing them and engendering mutual trust’… Even as a reader and listener are enjoying their bouquet of neurochemicals… their brain activity is synchronizing, creating literal order and connection in a process known as neural coupling.” (page 47)

“Ambient talking seems to do little or nothing for babies and toddlers. If two adults stand around talking to one another, the baby in the bassinet is likely to tune them out. What helps babies most is having people speak and read with them, in a responsive way.

As one academic observed, ‘If hearing language was all that mattered, children could be set in front of a television or radio to learn their native tongue.’ They can’t. Babies don’t learn from machines— at least not yet.” (page 71)

“A child’s receptive vocabulary, the words he can understand, is thought to be anywhere from one to three years ahead of his expressive vocabulary, the words he can use. This means that by ear he can grasp and appreciate narratives that would otherwise be outside his scope of competence…

An adult reading aloud does far more than impart a story; he or she also shows by tone of voice, phrasing, and pronunciation how complex sentences can be tackled, subdued, and enjoyed. And while all that is happening, the child is soaking up fresh ideas and unfamiliar words.” (page 110)

“In literature, we are freed from physical constraints and from the orthodoxies of our time and place. We meet characters we would never encounter in the real world. In a vicarious way, we experience life through them, and one result is an expansion of emotional understanding.

As Britain’s former children’s laureate Chris Riddell said, ‘A good book is an empathy machine.’” (page 118)

“When it comes to paying attention, children from read-aloud families go to school with a triple advantage. They’re used to listening, so it’s easy for them to do it. They’ve heard lots of language, so their comprehension will be comparatively strong. And they know from experience that paying attention brings rewards…

In 2013, researchers at Oregon State University found that the ‘attention-span persistence,’ as it’s called, of four-year-olds predicted their math and reading achievement at age twenty-one. Not only that, but age-four attention-span persistence also foretold whether children would finish college by the time they hit twenty-five.” (page 122-123)

“Like life itself, literature is unruly. It raises moral, cultural, and philosophical questions. Well, where better to talk about these things than at home?

The human story is messy and imperfect. It is full of color and peril, creation and destruction— of cruelty and villainy, prejudice and hatred, love and comedy, sacrifice and virtue… It is far better to talk about what we think of these matters with our children, using books as a starting point for the conversation.” (page 172)

“The more reading, the more voices; the more voices, the more imagination; the more imagination, the more opinions; the more opinions, the more freedom of thought; and the more children engage in freedom of thought, the better.” (page 174)

“And then there is the giving of self. When we read to other people, we show them that they matter to us, that we want to expand time and attention and energy in order to bring them something good.” (page 180)

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