I listen to a lot of audiobooks, mostly because it is the only way I can manage to squeeze more reading time into my day. The more I listen to audiobooks, the more I am amazed at the power of the written word. Every now and then I have the opportunity to read a paper book. I am, as I write this, reading Forever by Pete Hamill, a book that I read, and loved back in 2003 when it first came out. My memory of the book has faded just enough to make it a real treat to read it again.
The written word has a power over me. Within a paragraph or two of any piece of fiction I pick up, the words fade from the page, and I am lost in a book. I see and hear and smell and taste and feel the things the author wants to experience. The images form in my mind in a way that no motion picture has been able to improve upon. All sense of time and place fade away, and I can get through fifty, sixty, even a hundred pages—given the time—before I come up for air.
Occasionally, I get tripped up. I start to see the words on the page, I start to think about the words on the page, and this breaks the spell. No longer is the story playing out in my head. Instead, I am seeing just words on a page, and wondering how these words could have ever created such an experience in my mind. This never happens with audiobooks. It is reading that puts me into that special place, and it is when I acknowledge that I am read that I am plucked out of the story.
I think that is the secret to reading. Learning to tune out the mechanics of what you are doing, and let the story unfold. It is hard when you are a new reader. I listen to the Little Man practice his reading, and I can see in his face that it is all mechanics for him. He might comprehend what he is reading, but the magic isn’t happening yet. I imagine for some, that magic never happens. The words never get out the way. The mechanics of the process take too much focus, and the spark doesn’t catch.
I don’t know if this is something that can be taught. I know that for me, it seemed to happen pretty early, but I don’t know how it happened. I wish I could remember the first time that I started to read a book only to become lost in the book. I imagine it was like passing through some magical doorway. At first I was just seeing the words, sounding them out under my breath. Then, the words were gone and the story had taken over, and for the first time in my life, I was lost in a book.