Chance to enjoy stories read out loud

Joking around with the books they will read in next Wednesday’s "Reading Allowed" session at...
Joking around with the books they will read in next Wednesday’s "Reading Allowed" session at Dunedin Public Library are Dr Paul Tankard with Dracula and Friends of the Library president Lorraine Johnston with The Story of a New Zealand River. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
The classic storytelling tradition is being given a new twist at Dunedin Public Library, with free monthly gatherings for the public to listen to literature read aloud.

Dubbed "Reading Allowed — Storytime for All Ages", the sessions are the brainchild of book lovers Associate Professor Paul Tankard, Friends of the Library president Lorraine Johnston, and Libraries Reading Promotion co-ordinator Jackie McMillan.

Prof Tankard and Ms Johnston work together to choose the books, some personal favourites and others for their importance to literature, and each step up to read a 25-minute excerpt aloud to those gathered to listen.

The next Reading Allowed session will be held on Wednesday, July 6, from 5.30pm-6.30pm on the ground floor of City Library (at the cube), and will feature excerpts from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River.

"We like to choose stories that are quite different from each other, and will read passages that help to give a good sense of the book," Ms Johnston said.

Prof Tankard said the books chosen were not necessarily intellectual, but were varied and of general interest.

"On the whole, it is more about the live experience of listening to someone reading," he said.

Ms McMillan said listening to a story read aloud gave people the chance to relax at the end of a busy day and really enter into a good story.

"Reading is a source of comfort for many people, so we hope that these sessions will also help to support people’s wellbeing."

Assoc Prof Tankard said there were two main threads to the Reading Allowed scheme.

The first thread was the age-old practice of family reading, public recitation, and oral storytelling, which had been disrupted in the digital era by "attention-disrupting" technologies.

"[We] wanted to do something to show that reading can be a public, communal, and adult activity," he said.

The other thread was the books themselves — with traditions and stories embodied in literature for many centuries.

"In Reading Allowed, we want to concentrate on books with strong name recognition and a history of being read: books that people today have heard of and might (rightly) feel they ought to have read, but of which they have had no actual experience," he said.

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