Book Review: The Enchanted Hour

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in an Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon

The Enchanted Hour is a new book available at the Abington Community Library that tackles the importance of reading aloud. In a world where smartphones capture our attention with every blink and vibration, shortening our attention spans and isolating us from others, reading aloud just might be the answer to some of the problems technology creates.

“In a culture that’s undergoing what’s been called ‘the big disconnect,’ many of us are grappling with the effects of screens and devices, machines that enhance our lives and at the same time make it harder to concentrate and to retain what we’ve seen and read, and alarmingly easy to be only half present even with the people we love most. In this distracted age, we need to change our understanding of what reading aloud is, and what it can do. It is not just a simple, cozy, nostalgic pastime that can be taken up or dropped without consequence. It needs to be recognized as the dazzlingly transformative and even countercultural act that it is.”

This book is beautifully written and informative without being dry. Scientific studies, research, and historical examples back up Gurdon’s claims. Everyone would probably say it’s a good idea to read aloud to children, but do we actually believe that it has measurable value? Gurdon says yes, and her arguments are convincing.

Gurdon uses real-life examples and gives book recommendations along the way. Simply put, magic happens when people read together. This magic is especially transformative for children, whose brain development between the ages of 0-5 is rapid and instrumental in shaping the whole rest of their lives. Children who are read to develop a richer vocabulary than those who are not. Their imagination and reasoning skills blossom. This in turn sets them up for success in school and success in life.

Gurdon explains, “When we read to other people, we show them that they matter to us; that we want to give our time and attention and energy in order to bring them something good.”

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