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Reading as Listening

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head

    and a chain to adorn your neck.
- Proverbs 1:8-9
Reading is one of the ways you can listen. Stay with us … this will make sense in a minute.
What happens in your head when you’re reading? Most of us learned to read by reading aloud. Over time, we learned to read silently (mostly to keep our teachers and parents from having to listen to My Weird School Daze: My Alex Hates Italics). But we tend to hear a subvocal narrative in our heads as we read. Sometimes, if we know the author or have a sense of what the author’s voice sounds like in the real world, we’ll hear her voice in our heads as we read. We read and we listen.
In fact, the practice of reading quietly to yourself didn’t become common practice until modern times, according to “The Beginning of Silent Reading” by Thu-Huong Ha. Up until the 18thcentury it was common practice for ordinary people to own few books, read them over and over again, and read them aloud so friends and family and neighbors could enjoy them together.
In reading, we experience communal relationships not only with the author but also with others who are listening to the words. This is one of the many, many reasons why we value reading the Bible. When we listen to the words of scripture, we hear from our heavenly Father and participate communally with all of our brothers and sisters from around the world and down through history who are listening as well.
On Sunday – SPOILER ALERT – we’re going to invite our community to participate in a 31-day reading challenge. The Book of Proverbs has 31 chapters and the month of July has 31 days (this isn’t a Leap Year, right?). We’re going to invite you to read a chapter-a-day and see what wisdom grows in your life.
To prepare yourself to listen to Proverbs, you can reflect on the following questions:

  • When in your day would be a good time to read? (~5-10 minutes)
  • Where in your world would be a good place to read?
  • Who can you share what you’re learning as you read?

ps. Did you get distracted by the Leap Year joke or were you able to keep reading? What will you do if you hit a distraction while you’re reading your Proverb-a-day?

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