Family and Social Reading” argues that the family which gathers to read aloud benefits morally — and gives us a startling glimpse of a dissolute family that doesn’t.
“Family and Social Reading” (from The Mother’s Magazine, March 1848; pp. 97-98)

The benefits of social reading are manifold. Pleasures shared with others, are increased by the partnership. A book is tenfold a book, when read in the company of beloved friends by the ruddy fire, on the wintry evening; and when our intellectual pleasures are bathed in domestic affection. An elegant writer, commending the practice of reading aloud, says,

“Among a thousand means of making home attractive—a main point in ethics—this stands high. What is more pleasing? What more rational? What more tributary to the fund of daily talk? What more exclusive of scandal and chatter? He would be a benefactor indeed, who should devise a plan for redeeming our evenings, and rallying the young men who scatter to clubs and taverns, and brawling assemblies. Such a reformer and inventor would deserve a garland of heart’s-ease, from the hands of slighted woman. Families which are in a state of mutual repulsion have no

p. 98

evening together over books or music. The master is at his bar-room. The boys are at some public room or place of amusement. The girls are abroad in full dress. The mother sits at home in spectacles. And the several parties straggle in, weary and sometimes surly, at such hours as suit their whim, and then only because nature demands sleep. It is well if even this, at length, is not sought away from home.

“There is a higher reason still, in favor of the practice here recommended. Written language is the vehicle of a vast body of truth relating to our spiritual and immortal part; truth which we are prone to neglect, and truth which is never without a social reference. Nowhere is the volume of holy wisdom more appropriate, than when read aloud in the household assembly; nowhere is religion more sweetly intermingled with the attachments of the heart. Heavenly counsels are not the less impressive when conveyed by the familiar and cherished voice.

“I beg leave to add, this is a pleasure for the poor man’s house; and for this I love it. The poor man, if educated, is one day placed almost on a level with the prince, in respect to the best part of literary wealth. Let him ponder the suggestion, and enjoy the privilege.”

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