Raise your library voice


I’m messing with my own self-determined publishing schedule by posting today, but I’ve got a reason: it’s World Read Aloud Day  (WRAD), and I wanted you to be reminded before the day is over. That way you can do a little reading aloud yourself.*

I hope that you’ve got someone close by that you can read to, but if not, don’t hesitate. In the age of bluetooth headphones, people look like they’re talking to themselves all the time when they’re really on the phone, so there’s just no stigma anymore.

When it comes to what you might read, there are so many options! Are you a poetry lover? Poetry just begs to be read aloud. I attended a performance last week of Wonderland, which included some early lines from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” Do you remember them? Here are the first two stanzas:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”


Of course, it can be a little daunting to launch right into this one, given the number of invented words, and ambivalence about how those words should be pronounced. Are those soft g sounds, like in giraffe in line two, or hard g sounds like in grapes? I feel okay about trying frumious Bandersnatch, but does the rhythm suggest that I give voice to that e in mome in line four?


If you stick with poems containing words you already know, there are still more than you could ever possibly give voice to, if you started now, and read until midnight. I’m very partial to A.A. Milne, myself. Here’s one of his that describes the difficulties one can sometimes face trying to make headway with a long to-do list.


The Old Sailor

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

He was shipwrecked, and lived on an island for weeks,
And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks;
And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks
For the turtles and things which you read of in books.

And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
And he thought that to talk to he’d look for, and keep
(If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

Then, because of the weather, he wanted a hut
With a door (to come in by) which opened and shut
(With a jerk, which was useful if snakes were about),
And a very strong lock to keep savages out.

He began on the fish-hooks and when he’d begun
He decided he couldn’t because of the sun.
So he knew what he ought to begin with, and that
Was to find, or to make, a large sun-stopping hat.

He was making the hat with some leaves from a tree,
When he thought, “I’m as hot as a body can be,
And I’ve nothing to take for my terrible thirst;
So I’ll look for a spring, and I’ll look for it first.”

Then he thought as he started, “Oh, dear and oh, dear!
I’ll be lonely to-morrow with nobody here!”
So he made in his note-book a couple of notes:
“I must first find some chickens” and “No, I mean goats.”

He had just seen a goat (which he knew by the shape)
When he thought, “But I must have a boat for escape.
But a boat means a sail, which means needles and thread;
So I’d better sit down and make needles instead.”

He began on a needle, but thought as he worked,
That, if this was an island where savages lurked,
Sitting safe in his hut he’d have nothing to fear,
Whereas now they might suddenly breathe in his ear!

So he thought of his hut … and he thought of his boat,
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) …
But he never could think which he ought to do first.

And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved –
He did nothing but basking until he was saved.



I could spend all day thinking of poems or prose I could read aloud, but then I wouldn’t be reading aloud to anyone. I’m off to press someone into service as an audience. Don’t hesitate to find someone who will read to you, too. If you can get hold of Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men on audiobook read by Stephen Briggs, you’re in for a rare treat.

If you read something to someone or hear something read today that you really enjoy, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.



*Of course, you can do some tomorrow, too, and you don’t even need to make excuses about it being the day after World Read Aloud Day. But there’s something nice about being part of a movement, joining in an action that you know is happening in other places, shared by millions of people around the world.


[Images: litworld.org, lewiscarroll.org, quotesgram.com]

2 thoughts on “Raise your library voice

  1. Well I’m both scandalized and chastened. El Guapo, my editor, is off in Spain right now, and time zones don’t always make it easy to consult him. So this went to press without his blessing. If he had seen it he would certainly have noticed that the copy of Milne’s poem that I trustingly obtained from a poetry website was missing some stanzas. It wasn’t until I read it to Ninja this evening that I noticed this. It’s been fixed now, but I’ve learned my lesson–re-read, re-read!

  2. Pingback: And I quote: Brian Bilston | Lori Notes

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