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  • Rachael Brady

Experiencing Stories Together

I took a writing class this summer with two teachers who lamented that kids simply aren’t reading anymore. A lot of the time, it seems like adults aren’t reading either. We’re all just staring at screens. But then, you walk into the Somerville Public Library and see that the book you want (in my case, Remarkably Bright Creatures) has a sixteen week wait. And when I talk to my sister, a reading specialist in Washington, she marvels as she watches her five-year-old students develop a love for reading.


So the truth is, kids and adults are reading even if the amount has declined steeply. According to Gallup, Americans read an average of 12.6 books in 2022 compared to 15.6 in 2016. Many scholars, like Scott H. Young, attribute the decline to social media, smartphones, and, essentially, a change in habits.


But reading is not going away and at The Somerville Growing Center, we encourage readership; stories are celebrated and read in community with one another sitting in the grass and just listening. We planned fifteen community read-alouds for the summer, and it’s not too late to come by and listen.


Reader and author Ron Grady reads in the garden in May.

Yumi Izuyama, an illustrator and storyteller, is a reader for these events. She talked about the community that reading together brings about in both children and adults, “In my view, sharing stories in a group allows both children and adults to share their feelings and emotions with the person who is reading the story as well as with each other, creating a sense of community that only stories bring.”


Kathleen Froehlich, one of Somerville Community Growing Center’s newest board members, sees read-alouds as opportunities for connection and imagination. “Children and families can make their own cozy set-up for listening and there is freedom for children to wander and explore as well if they aren’t up for sitting,” she said.


And when asked what their favorite parts about the read-alouds are, Kathleen replied, “Having the children respond to the story, asking questions and forming connections is one of my favorite things.”


Volunteer Kathleen Froehlich reads during a Community Read-aloud in the garden.

“My favorite part of the experience of reading aloud is hearing children’s interpretation of the story. They often surprise and amuse me with their observations,” Yumi added.


Reading is a way to build and foster community, connection, and empathy. It’s not going away anytime soon, but maybe reading more often together can help stave off the reading decline.


The remaining Read-Alouds this summer at the Somerville Growing Center are scheduled for September 11 (kids), and October 9 (kids, Portuguese).


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