The Joy of Listening to a Book Read Aloud

Story Time Reviews, a monthly feature on this blog, remembers that special time when an adult reads to a child and recognizes that as a grown-up, we need to reward ourselves with a story time now and then. This series reviews audio versions of short stories. Do you enjoy listening to audio books? Do you enjoy reading aloud to a family member? Or vice versa? Often during my grandson’s weekly visits he will read aloud to me. I find this personally valuable, but it got me to wondering if there are additional benefits. Though the joy of listening to a book read aloud has plenty of value, there are many other benefits to listening to stories read aloud.

Two girls stretched out in a window seat with one of the girls reading to the other.

Increases Listening Skills

Listening to a story read out loud forces the person listening to focus on the sounds of the words. One develops a greater attention span. The reader adds value to the story with the inflections and stresses of the words and sentences they use. This engages the critical listening skills of the listener. 

Critical listening is paying attention to all the parts of the story. You analyze and evaluate what you’re hearing. Uh-oh, that character’s in trouble now!

When you are critically listening, you apply your skills and focus on understanding what is being said. 

Improved Vocabulary 

When you read aloud or listen to a story, you read one word at a time instead of scanning phrases like you do when reading silently. 

This gives both the listeners and the readers opportunities to recognize new words, connect the word to a meaning, and understand the word in context. It also helps with pronunciation if the reader is familiar with the word.

When my grandson stumbles on an unfamiliar word, he looks to me for the pronunciation and definition. On occasion I need to look up the word for one or both. That gives us both an opportunity to learn.

Better Comprehension

The reader’s inflections and emphasis convey meaning to the story. Sometimes my grandson’s tone informs me that he’s finding personal meaning in part of the story. Then, I can ask questions like, “Do you think the boy made the right choice?” “Is that a the way a real friend acts?” 

When you talk about a book together, it’s not a lecture, it’s more like a coach looking at a film with his players, going over the plays to find out what went right and what went wrong. 



Black and white photo of the joy of reading aloud with a woman and a little girl lying in bed while the woman reads Horton Hears a Who aloud.

Reader and listener experience a connection during a read aloud session. No matter their ages, each is focused on the other and derive pleasure from the activity. The reader and listener do not have to be related. Bonds between reader and listener grow warmer. Reading becomes a pleasurable activity.

I used to volunteer at local grade schools. I helped first graders practice their reading skills and led book discussions called Lunch and Learn. In both situations, the joy on the student’s faces was a highly rewarding.

My grandson reads aloud quite well now. He often expresses sarcasm at a character’s behavior. “Like that would work.” Or, “How does he think that’s going to turn out?” Sometimes a phrase or story situation distracts him and he’ll relate an incident in his own life. The story triggered a memory and he wants to share it with me. Those are gems I treasure.

The Joy of Listening to a Book Read Aloud

The joy of listening to a book read grows exponentially when it’s read by a loved one. That’s not the only benefit. Adults and children gain improved listening skills, vocabulary, and comprehension. In addition, the bonds between reader and listener can make reading an ever pleasurable experience and a life-long habit.

Does someone read to you? Do you read aloud to someone? If you’ve never experienced that joy, I hope this post will encourage you to read aloud. Volunteer at local schools, libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, or hospices. Do you experience the joy of listening to a book read aloud? Please take a moment and tell us about your experience.

Story Time Reviews “Kin”

Story Time Reviews remembers that special time when an adult reads to a child and recognizes that as a grown-up, we need to reward ourselves with a story time now and then. I’m reviving this blog series that offers reviews of stories read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister read on “LeVar Burton Reads.” This podcast originally posted on June 13, 2017. It runs 36:46 minutes in length.

The Amazon cover is a close up of an alien eye. It is the cover for the story Kin by Bruce McAllister.

The Story

“Kin” by Bruce McAllister appeared in the February 2006 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It received a nomination for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. The story appears in multiple anthologies and is an Amazon “short read.

The story is about a meeting between a young boy who has a need and an alien assassin. Their meeting yields unexpected results.

The principal character, a twelve-year-old boy, is convincing. The author’s words paint the alien assassin in scary otherworldly details.

The story starts in a third person omniscient viewpoint that quickly switches to a closer third-person viewpoint and shatters conventions by relaying the story from three different viewpoints.

One might think three viewpoints would make the story flabby and difficult to follow. Yet, the story, the boy’s need, grabs you and sweeps you forward relentlessly to the end.

The Voice Talent

Photo portrait of LeVar Burton
Image by Super Festivals from Ft. Lauderdale, USA –
Photo_Ops-LeVar_Burton_20181202_0024, CC BY 2.0,

LeVar Burton is an actor, presenter, and author know by many of us. He is best known for his role as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and his role as Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries Roots.

Mr. Burton has long been an advocate of reading. He hosted the long-running PBS show for children, Reading Rainbow (1983-2001 and 2002-2006). He started his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads in 2017. (Read his Wikipedia bio.)

In every episode of his podcast, he reads a short story aloud. He says the only thing these stories have in common is that he loves them.

The Author

Bruce McAllister, author of literary and genre fiction, was born October 17, 1946, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Worlds of If magazine published McAllister’s first short story, “The Faces Outside,” in the July 1963 issue. He was sixteen. The story appeared in Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25 (1963) and The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF, 1964.

Known for his short stories, he has published novels, poetry, short stories and articles, been a consultant to writers on film and TV projects for studios and production companies. He taught literature and writing. Currently he’s a writing coach in Southern California where he lives with his wife. He has three children.

My Opinion

In the Air is a blog post about recent podcasts, livestreaming, and YouTube videos Lynette M Burrows enjoyed recently.

I love listening to Mr. Burton. I think he could entertain me by reading the dictionary. In this story, his delivery of a unique voice for each character worked perfectly for me. But this story is as satisfying to read silently as to listen to it.

You know why this story appealed to me if you’ve read My Soul to Keep. Specific details and an emotional resonance make this story a satisfying read, and Mr. Burton’s wonderful voice makes it an enthralling listen.


Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister receives 5 out of 5 stars.

I hope you like the Story Time Reviews posts. They will make occasional appearances on this blog. Did Story Time Reviews “Kin” help you decide you’d like to read or listen to this story? Why or why not?

In the Air: livestreaming, podcasts, and YouTube

Livestreaming, podcasts, and videos on YouTube are an endless source of information, inspiration,  and a huge research rabbit hole. Listening or watching while involved in completing mindless household chores, makes my chores more pleasant. Here’s a tiny sample of what I found in the air this month.


Episode 2—available on YouTube

A fascinating panel discussion of space opera featuring five women who work in the field of or read Speculative Fiction. Ann Leckie, Bonnie Milani, Khaalidah Muhammed-Ali, Chandra Trulove Fry, and Diane Morrison discuss space opera they’ve written, read, and watched. In their discussion, the scope of space opera ranges from hard science to fantasy. The setting involves anywhere other than Earth. And they felt that space opera is at least a journey away from Earth. Listen to their wide-ranging discussion on writing and reading space opera.

The Mom Writes Podcast—

Episode #35—on Itunes or the author accelerator website

In this episode mom writers, Abby Mathews and Melanie Parrish, interview Author and Medium Roland Comtois. Comtois’s experiences as a nurse and personal experiences inform his views on grief and pain. His book, 16 Minutes…When One Breath Ends, Another Begins, chronicles his last moments with his mother before she died. This podcast typically is about the story coaching both Abby and Melanie’s receive from Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator as they each learn to write their own books. In today’s episode, they discuss writing, expressing the pain and grief that the author needs to work through, and Comtois’ work as a Medium.

LeVar Burton Reads—

Episode 20—on Stitcher or iTunes

“The Great Wide World Over There” by Ray Bradbury. LeVar Burton reads is a podcast I listen to for the sheer pleasure of listening. This isn’t my favorite Bradbury story, but to listen to LeVar read is heavenly.

If you want to learn about more podcasts and haven’t seen my previous posts, take a moment to read Listen and Learn: Podcasts and Listen and Learn: Podcasts On Writing.

Did you find anything in the air this month? Did you listen or watch one of these? What did you think?

Listen & Learn: Podcasts

We’re all busy, right? We have lives, children (two-legged or/and four-legged), spouses, and chores to do. Some of us have more than one career we juggle, too. So how does one make time for everything? Listen & learn.


In my busy lifestyle, I find it difficult to find time to read. But I have a lot of tasks that I do that keep my hands busy like dishes, yard work, and data collection. During those times I sometimes listen to audio books but more and more lately, I’ve been listening to podcasts.


According to Wikipedia, “A podcast is an episodic series of audio files which a user can subscribe to so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s local computer, mobile application, or media player. The term podcast was invented by BBC  journalist Ben Hammersly in 2004.

Podcasts are usually free of charge. Some charge a small fee, others use sponsors and ads, still others use Patron to cover the cost of production.

The user can listen to current podcast episodes or archived ones. Podcasts are produced by a wide range of people from professionals working for well-known corporations to a beginner working out of her own home. This means that quality can be all over the place. But don’t avoid a podcast done by a beginner. Sometimes their enthusiasm for their subject more than makes up for the poorer sound quality and production values.


Where do you find podcasts? Primarily on Apple iTunes or Stitcher, which was initially designed for android phones. Some podcasters have links to the podcasts on their websites.

A word of caution: I’ve never used Stitcher but have seen reviews that suggest it may not be working well.


There are thousands of podcasts, maybe millions, covering nearly every topic in existence. It’s hard to sort through the titles to find the ones that speak to you. Here are a few that I enjoy.

You Are Not So Smart (YANSS)—hosted by David McRaney this podcast takes a look at flawed perception and reasoning. McRaney interviews experts that are always fascinating. He also taste-tests cookies on air, that are made from recipes sent to him by listeners. The YANSS website with more information and a link to the podcast is here.

Science Friday (SciFri)—hosted and produced by Ira Flatow, SciFri is a podcast that started as a public radio show in 1991.  It “is the source for entertaining and educational stories about science, technology, and other cool stuff.”  One of the topics in a recent episode was about advances in the field of prosthetics for amputees that sound like something out of the Bionic Man. The Science Friday website with a link to the radio show and the podcast is here.

Flash Forward—hosted and produced by Rose Eveleth. This podcast explores the future with a ‘what if’ sensibility. Eveleth begins each podcast with a short audio play that reflects a future where this month’s ‘what if’ is a reality. The bulk of the podcast is interviews with experts about the advantages, disadvantages, and probabilities of the ’what if’ becoming reality. The Flash Forward website with a link to the podcast is here.

Entertaining and informative, these three podcasts are my current top picks for the sciences. In the future, I’ll share the writing podcasts that I enjoy.

Do you listen to podcasts? If you don’t, will you try one now?

If you are a podcast listener, which ones do you enjoy?

Audio-Tehnica headphones via Flickr Creative Commons

Can A Bad Hair Day Be A Good Thing?

Recently on Twitter, one of my WANA1011 classmates mentioned she’d gotten a new hairdo and how good that made her feel. A great haircut and color can do that. It’s invigorating. But a monstrously bad hairstyle? Well, sometimes a bad hair day can teach you a thing or two.Bad hair day is cute on my yorkie,


Shortly after I graduated from nursing school, I moved across two states to be closer to the young man who had been my brother’s college roommate. We’d met a few times and exchanged letters across the 700 plus miles between us. The letters gradually grew more intimate but long-distance communication by snail mail (the internet and email were not available to everyone at that time) was frustratingly slow and prone to misunderstandings that had to be smoothed out by long distance phone calls. Young and up for the adventure, I accepted a job in that far away city.

I packed all my worldly possessions into an eight-foot U-Haul trailer, hitched it to my little 1975 Ford Mustang and drove to my new life.

I arrived at my new home on the coldest day of the year, literally. It was so cold that the radio announcer warned parents not to let their children wait at the bus stop in the subzero wind chill as frostbite would be certain. Yikes! I began to have my first doubts about what I had done.


During my first weeks of the new job, new rules, new procedures, different terminology soon left me feeling overwhelmed. I found that as a working adult, making friends wasn’t the same as it had been in college. These folks had their friendship circles established, leaving me to feel like an outsider. Even the young man I’d moved for had a circle of friends and routines that didn’t include me. What on earth had possessed me to move? I felt disconnected, uncertain, and afraid. So I turned to the most reliable ‘make-myself-feel-better’ method I knew – a new hairstyle.

But I hadn’t established a new hairstylist since my move. My boyfriend’s mother helpfully offered the name and address of her hairdresser. Her hair always looked nice and I knew where the salon was located, so I made an appointment.

On the day of the appointment, I left home anticipating that great feeling of a new hairstyle.


The salon was a combination barbershop and hairstyling salon in the lower level of an old brick building. Entering the shop you were assaulted with the overpowering odors of permanent solution, bleach, and sickly sweet aftershave. Everything in the shop said established, traditional, and every single stylist was my mother’s age or older. That made me feel a little uneasy, but I sat in the stylist chair and described how I have always envied women with thick, hair that bounced with body, so that’s what I wanted. The stylist asked me several questions about curls, didn’t I want some? I kept repeating that I wanted lots of body. Finally, the stylist seemed to understand. She assured me that she could turn my unruly shoulder-length locks into a dream head of hair.

After a quick shampoo and trim, she set up the tools of torment her trade: perm papers, rollers of various sizes, and lots of clips to secure the rollers.

Oh, those torturous rollers! By the time she was finished, I couldn’t waggle an eyebrow nor bend my neck for fear of scalping myself. Then came the breath-robbing permanent solution!. Finally, she put me under the hairdryer.

I had come prepared with a new book to read while I waited. It was a good book. I escaped the sounds and smells of the salon and entered the world of the story, barely aware of passing time.

Finally, I sat in front of her station, staring into the mirror. My head was a mass of wet, tight curls. “Um, that looks pretty tight,” I said. She reassured me that this was as it had to be and after a couple of shampoos it would relax and be the bodacious hair of my dreams. As she styled my newly frizzed permed hair, my dismay grew. She styled my hair exactly as she styled my boyfriend’s mother’s hair: a tight cap of curls. I bit back my tears and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

In my car, outside the salon, I sat staring into my rearview mirror, tears cascading down my face for what seemed an eternity. I looked hideous! I decided I couldn’t be seen this way and drove to the nearest department store where I bought a bunch of head scarfs and covered my curls before I left the store.

That hairdo did not relax into the beautiful bouncing body I had hoped for. One day after the next was a bad hair day. By the end of a week, I was angry. I returned to the salon and complained to the manager. He listened to my rant and said he would fix it for free. He put a relaxer on my hair and trimmed off the fried ends. My dreams of long waves were swept up and dumped in the nearest trash can. Afterward, as I peered into the mirror I felt as if I could face myself again. The manager said something about being sorry I had been so dissatisfied and in a very mystified voice added about how that stylist usually did a good job in questioning her clients so she could give them what they wanted.


Of course, my hair grew out. I found a new circle of friends and I grew comfortable with my new home. And before I chose my next hairstylist, I did a lot of investigating and interviewing. Eventually, I found a stylist that was a fit for me and memories of the really bad hair day has faded, though obviously not forgotten.


I’m not certain when it occurred to me, but I realized that the problem between the hairstylist and I was one of communication. Not only did she not listen to me; I didn’t listen to her.

These days I’ve come to value listening. But it’s not as easy as one would think.

Surprisingly the first person you have to learn to listen to is yourself. You can’t know what you need, what drives you, or who you are unless you listen to yourself. Without that self-awareness, you can’t really listen to others.

It’s only after you are comfortable with yourself that you can hear what others have to say. You have to be able to listen with your ears, your eyes (what does their body language tell you), and with your heart. When you listen to others, rephrase what they’ve told you. You don’t have to give advice, or tell a similar story, or say anything. Just listen. By doing so, you validate their experiences, you demonstrate that you value them, you learn about the human experience and gain an ‘I’m not alone’ wisdom. Best of all, you develop relationships that can grow.

So nowadays, no matter whether I’m getting repairs done on my house or a new hairstyle, the number one trait I look for in someone else is listening.

Thank you for reading (listening) today. I know you have a ton of things to do and I value your time. I’d be delighted to hear about your most memorable listening lesson or a bad hair day. I’m here, listening. Oh, and just so you know – I have never, ever again had another permanent or such a terrible bad hair day. 🙂