Today marks the second annual World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by LitWorld, a New York-based literacy organization. LitWorld’s mission is to: “…cultivate literacy leaders worldwide through transformational literacy experiences… to support the development of literacy and the redemptive power of story in the world’s most vulnerable communities.”

Participants of World Read Aloud Day are asked to read with loved ones and friends to help reach a goal of 774 million minutes of reading to honor the 774 million people worldwide who are illiterate.  You can sign up to participate and record your reading time here.

LitWorld’s slogan: Words Changing Worlds

Can words really do that? As Frances McDormand would say in the movie Fargo — You Bet’cha!  Words are the sinew that bind us together as humans.  As a picture book writer, of course I am supportive of a cause like Read Aloud Day.  What other form of literature is so well suited for reading aloud?  But truthfully the support comes from a much deeper place.  One of the questions LitWorld poses to participants is, “What would you miss most if you could not read or write?”

The obvious answer is… well… books.  But after pondering the question a bit, I came up with something a bit more profound (thank goodness – I am a writer after all).  Without books I never would have:

  • Journeyed across Middle Earth
  • Lived in the court of King Henry the VIII
  • Crossed the bridge into Terabithia
  • Eaten my way across Italy, Prayed my way across India and Loved my way across Bali
  • Seen the inside of a concentration camp
  • Had illicit love affairs
  • Studied magic at Hogwarts
  • Survived the Depression in the Dust Bowl
  • Met the Wicked Witch of the West as a young girl
  • Flown a kite in Kabul
  • Watched Charlotte spin her webs
  • Witnessed an elephant hatching an egg
  • Lived in the Belgian Congo as part of a missionary family
  • Tamed Mr. Darcy
  • Climbed Mt. Everest

And on and on and on.  A good book doesn’t give us an escape; it gives us a portal.  You can go deep into other places, other times, other worlds and emerge feeling as if those experiences were no less real than the ones you move through during an ordinary day.  The emotional resonance enters our bloodstream and stays there as memory.

And if I couldn’t write? Well, that would be like putting tape over my mouth.  Writing is how I understand and interpret the world – including myself.  It’s not a career.  It’s a way of life.

So today I encourage you to celebrate your ability to read and write, and spend some time reading aloud with others.  Reading aloud doesn’t have to be the exclusive purview of young children.  Here are some ideas whether you have children or not.

  • Poetry: Read poetry aloud or go to a poetry slam. Hearing poetry out loud is the best way to appreciate its lyricism.  Read some love poetry with your honey or some Shel Silverstein with your kids.
  • Newspaper or Magazine articles: Share an article you find interesting by reading it aloud to friends or family, using it as a jumping off point for discussion.
  • Audio Books: Listen to them while you commute, make dinner or do housework
  • Car trips: Taking a long road trip with more than one adult? Have one adult drive and one read a book.  This makes the drive a lot more fun for everyone.  I’ve done this with my family a few times, and even though my throat gets a little sore, it’s worth it!
  • Volunteer: Perhaps you can read to an elderly person who’s lost his or sight, or volunteer with a literacy group.
  • Story Time: Take your kids to the library story times
  • Bedtime Stories: Yes, the old standby. Cuddle up with your kids and read to them before bed, even if they are older.  Teenagers might appreciate having you read a chapter of a book they are already reading – or a book you are reading.

Want more ideas? The best book I’ve ever read on the importance and benefits of reading aloud to people of all ages is The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  He also has a comprehensive list of read-alouds for all ages in all genres on his website.

What would you miss most if you could not read or write?  Do you plan to celebrate World Read-Aloud Day? Do you have any other suggestions for Read-Aloud activities?




Categories: Books, Children's Books, Picture Books, Poetry, Volunteer/Community, Writing · Tags: , , , , , ,



  1. If I could not read or write, I’m not sure I’d want to be here at all.

    If I subtracted what I’ve learned (from books and writing) from the sum of my life, I’m not sure that the remaining bits and pieces would be enough to sustain me.


    I asked the zebra, Are you black with white strips? Or white with black strips? And the zebra asked me:

    Are you good with bad habits?
    Or are you bad with good habits?
    Are you noisy with quiet times?
    Or are you quiet with noisy times?
    Are you happy with sad days?
    Or are you sad with happy days?
    Are you neat with some sloppy ways?
    Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
    And on and on and on and on
    And on and on he went.
    I’ll never ask a zebra about stripes again.
    ~ Shel Silverstein
    A Light in the Attic

    Thanks for a terrific post, Julie.

  2. I shared a link to this post on FB ~ it’s such a wonderful reminder that reading is FUNdamental.


  3. I didn’t know today was World Read Aloud Day, but luckily I read some of The Spiderwick Chronicles to my daughter before bed!

  4. Thank you for this! I am a read-aloud fanatic: each of my children has a huge chunk of something lovely read at bedtime – currently it’s Prince Caspian, Pride and Prejudice, with lashings of Mr Gumm by Andy Stanton. I listen to audiobooks throughout the night, and I am just trying to work out how to read and post audiobooks online.

    I’m also a teacher who sees the effects of busy working parents being unable to saturate their childrens’ lives with the spoken word. Is there such a thing as literate poverty? Now I’m on the look out for research that underpins how vital reading aloud is to our children.

    • Definitely pick up the Jim Trelease book then! It’s full of amazing info. I love how you say “saturate” childrens’ lives with the spoken word. That is absolutely what we need to do to compete against all the electronic mumbo-jumbo.

  5. Taming Mr. Darcy! 🙂

    You know, I’ve still not listened to an audio book. (It’s on my to-do list)


  6. Audio books are great! Especially on long car trips. I think I’ll have to remember to get a book for the next family trip. We’ve done it once or twice and it sure beats listening to the kids argue or be way too silly.

    Another way to read aloud is to cook with your children and read the recipes to them.

    And while driving in the car on a daily basis, we have the strange habit of reading signs, billboards, car wordage, street signs, etc. out loud to each other. We don’t comment or make a discussion of it usually, but it’s more like, “Hey, I didn’t know that was there!” I don’t know how or why we started doing that, but it’s oh, so simple, and goofy, and sometimes annoying. But still kind of fun, especially in areas you don’t travel to very often.

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