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The Ontario High School Reader

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Importance of Oral Reading

There are several reasons why every boy or girl should strive to become a good reader. In the first place, good oral reading is an accomplishment in itself. It affords a great deal of pleasure to others as well as to ourselves. In the second place, it improves our everyday speech and is also a preparation for public speaking; for the one who reads with distinctness and an accent of refinement is likely to speak in the same way, whether in private conversation or on the public platform. Moreover, it is only one step from reading aloud before the class to recitation, and another step from recitation to public speaking. Lastly, oral reading is the best method of bringing out and conveying to others and to oneself all that a piece of literature expresses. For example, the voice is needed to bring out the musical effects of poetry. The following lines will illustrate this point:

But the sea-caves rung, and the wild winds sung The dirge of lovely Rosabelle.

Here the music of the rhythm and the harmony between sound and sense would be almost entirely lost in silent reading.

The voice, too, is often the surest and most effective means of conveying differences of meaning and feeling in both prose and poetry. The following words from Hervé Riel (pp. -247) may be made to convey different meanings according to the intonation of the voice:

Burn the fleet and ruin France?

This may be read to express hesitation and deliberation, or, as is the evident intention, shewn by the context as well as by the punctuation, to express Hervé Riel's surprise and indignation that such a thought should be entertained.

Mechanical Side of Oral Reading

Now in what does oral reading consist? It consists, first of all, in recognizing the words, pronouncing them correctly, and articulating them distinctly. The pupil in the First Book, who is learning to read, is trying to master this side of reading, which is the mechanical side. He cannot be too careful as to the habits of speech he forms; for correct position of the organs of speech and proper control of the breath make for correct pronunciation and distinct articulation, which are two of the foundation stones of good reading.

By correct pronunciation, we mean the pronunciation approved by a standard dictionary. Elegance and refinement of speech depend largely on the correct pronunciation of the vowel sounds. The vowel a, which is sounded in seven different ways in the English language, presents the greatest difficulty. Many people recognize at most, only the sound of a in at, ate, all, far, and mortal respectively. They ignore the sound as in air, and the shorter quantity of the Italian a in ask, giving the sound of a in ate to the former and of a in at or a in all or a in far to the latter. Another difficulty is that of distinguishing the sound of oo in roof, food, etc., from the sound of oo in book and good, and from the sound of u in such words as pure and duke.

Pronunciation, when perfectly pure, should be free from what we call provincialisms; that is, from any peculiarity of tone, accent, or vowel sound, which would mark the speaker as coming from any particular locality....