“Reading Rainbow” is one of those iconic shows that I knew about but never really watched.
While my childhood had its fill of Saturday morning cartoons (“Jem and the Holograms,” “He-Man,” “The Smurfs,” “Rainbow Brite,” and more), I primarily spent my time running wild outside rather than tuning in to the television.
But “Reading Rainbow” was still on my radar, and as I grew older, it became a distant memory. Until someone posted a video of LeVar Burton reading a book for adults (but styled like a children’s book) called: Go the F*ck to Sleep. It’s a relatable bedtime story for exhausted parents everywhere.
Oral storytelling is one of those dying traditions that many of us still hold dear. We read bedtime stories to our children, but we think of reading when we’re older as a solitary, silent occupation. A book (or NOOK or Kindle) in hand as we turn (or scroll through) the pages is not something we tend to share unless we’re part of a book club where we discuss what we read after we’ve read it, preferably with a glass of wine in hand.
But reading stories aloud? It’s not something most of us do.
I remember the first time I read a story aloud as an adult. Even then, it was to a child—or rather the child growing inside me.
During my first pregnancy, I was rereading Lost Horizon by James Hilton, which is perhaps my all-time favorite book. I found myself reading it aloud, and it was a soothing experience. It was so soothing, in fact, that I read the entire book aloud. And while I enjoyed that and enjoy reading to my children now, there’s something special about sitting quietly and listening to a story unfold.
For those of us who long for this experience, LeVar Burton once again saves the day! His new podcast, “LeVar Burton Reads,” is designed specifically for adults. In this podcast, Burton reads short stories to us from a variety of genres. Think of it as a bedtime story for adults.
I’m not going to lie: his voice is the soothing something we need to ease our stress and escape into the world of a story, if only for a few minutes at a time.
For those of us who long to be told stories, this “‘Reading Rainbow’ for adults” might just be the ticket. But how else can we incorporate storytelling into our lives? Is it possible to resurrect this tradition?
Here are a few ways to try:
>> Listen to audiobooks. The local library is a great place to check out audiobooks. We can listen while we commute to work or when we travel.
>> Look for radio shows on vinyl. For those of us who are truly old-school, we probably own a record player. Antique shops and even thrift stores often have a variety of records. A true gem of storytelling can be found in the old radio shows. The genres vary. You can choose between suspense stories, soap operas, or even Wild West tales. Listening to these records can be a great way to pass the time, and it’s interesting to get a peek into the music and advertisements of the day.
>> Talk to people. If we truly love stories, the best place to get them is from talking to people. Be interested. Ask questions. Listen to what people have to say. This is how we can mine for stories in our everyday life. Not to share them or gossip, but simply to enjoy a good story. We can ask our parents or grandparents to tell us about a time before we were born or even treat us to a tale of ourselves as children. We can ask people we meet about their lives. To do this, to really delve into other people’s stories, it’s important to be interested and not judgmental. Curiosity is a requirement for this.
>> Share. When we have stories, we can tell them. But we can also read aloud passages from the books we love to our friends or significant others. We can ask them to share the same with us. Reading a story can become a shared experience. Joining a book club or even sharing what we read can be a great way to connect with other readers and even storytellers.
>> Go see a play. Seeing a play acted out by live actors (as opposed to a movie or T.V. show) is like watching a story come to life. It’s a more personal experience. Experience a story rather than just watch it. My favorite is “Phantom of the Opera,” but there are so many good stories to see played out on the stage.
>> Memorize them. This applies more to poetry than anything else, but if we memorize poems or our favorite passages of books, we’ll always have them when we need them. By committing them to memory, we can revisit them as needed.
Storytelling might be a lost art, but it’s not entirely extinct. And with programs like “LeVar Burton Reads,” it might even be saved for future generations.
We’re not children anymore, but there’s still something relaxing about having a story told to us. It’s our “Reading Rainbow,” and it may be just what we all need!
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Sam Howzit/Flickr
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina