‘Apply Yourself to Public Reading’
1, 2. When do we have opportunities to do public reading?
1 The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, “Continue applying yourself to public reading.” And he instructed Timothy to teach this and additional qualifications for the ministry to fellow Christian ministers. (1 Tim. 4:13) That inspired counsel is also appropriate for each one of God’s ministers today, and we do well to heed it.
2 Public reading is often called for on the part of the theocratic minister. At the Watchtower study and at the congregation book study scriptures and paragraphs have to be read. During the service meeting and the Theocratic Ministry School, as well as in the field ministry, Bible texts are read. Therefore it is for each minister’s own benefit and for the benefit of those who will listen, for him to become a good public reader.
3. Why is preparation important?
3 Public reading is reading out loud for the benefit of others. But will listeners really benefit to the full if the reader stumbles over words and uses improper phrasing or misplaced emphasis that obscures the thought? What attention will they give if he lacks enthusiasm, reading in a monotone? To read well in a group, preparation is needed. It is good never to go to an assignment, even for reading at a congregation book study, without having read through the material. Otherwise the audience will not be receiving the benefit that they might, and they may well pick up wrong pronunciations of words from the reader. Yes, there is need for each minister to apply himself to public reading.—Hab. 2:2.
4, 5. What qualities are needed in order for public reading to stimulate the audience, and to be easily understood?
4 Needed qualities. When reading, be enthusiastic. Infuse warmth into your presentation, reflecting the feelings described by the words. Thus you will avoid a cold and lifeless presentation. Exercise care not to reduce your volume to the point where your audience misses vital parts. Your volume must be sufficient to reach all parts of the room or auditorium being used. No one should have to strain to catch even a word.
5 There is need to sound out your words clearly, without chopping off part of some words, or slurring them together so as to render them unintelligible. On the other hand, it is not good to become so precise that your delivery detracts from the message. Well-enunciated reading means that the listener is never in any doubt about the words you are reading. Indistinctness often results because the reader’s voice is not projected outward toward the audience, so make it a practice to hold your head up when you read. Open your mouth so as to let the sounds go out without any obstruction.
6. How is proper placement of emphasis determined, and in what way do pauses contribute to emphasis?
6 Proper emphasis is important. Indeed, it is the key to understanding what you read. It is well known that a change of emphasis can convey an entirely different meaning to an audience. Sometimes a single word requires special stress, but often it is a group of words, an entire phrase, that should be emphasized. The placement of emphasis should be determined by the thought to be conveyed, and that is governed, not merely by the rest of the sentence, but by the entire argument. Well-placed pauses are a vital part of emphasis. Short pauses help to group words in a meaningful way and draw attention to key ideas; longer pauses indicate the conclusion of a main part of the argument.
7. What helps to make reading sound like conversation?
7 Variety in pitch and pace must also be taken into consideration as you strive to read well. Without it the delivery would be dull and unappealing. But when properly employed, such variety in expression will do much to make your reading sound more like natural, lively conversation.
8. When might a talk appropriately be given from a manuscript?
8 Manuscript reading. One of the important situations involving public reading is delivery of a manuscript talk. This type of presentation has its place. For example, the Society may arrange from time to time for all congregations of God’s people in a given land to hear the same information at the same time. Again, manuscript talks have their place on assembly programs, where there is the possibility that excerpts of the speech will be quoted by the news media or where involved material needs to be presented with accuracy.
9, 10. What is the main difficulty to overcome when delivering a manuscript talk, and how can it be done?
9 The main difficulty to be overcome in manuscript reading is to make it sound as though the words and phrases were being put together in a conversational manner. However, the tone needs to be considerably enlarged. Usually the phrasing of the composition is quite different from what you would ordinarily use, the sentences perhaps being longer and more complex. It may have a choiceness of expression and a rhythm that are not natural to your normal speaking. You may feel that you could do a better job of delivery if you put the material in your own words. But practice and experience will enable you to make marked improvement in giving manuscript talks.
10 For success, advance preparation is the key. Time must be taken to become familiar with the manuscript. You should read over your material several times to get the main ideas clearly in mind. Should there be some unfamiliar words, look them up in a good dictionary and make notation of the pronunciation on the manuscript. Then practice giving the talk out loud to familiarize yourself with the style of presentation of the original writer. Some readers find that practicing aloud in front of a mirror helps them to improve audience contact, something that is quite important if the talk is being given in a small auditorium.
11. What markings on the manuscript are helpful?
11 It is beneficial to underline or accent key words that you want to emphasize. Some readers find it helpful to divide off phrases in the manuscript with a tiny vertical bar. In addition, words in difficult or unusual groups that must be spoken together can be tied together with curved lines to remind you not to pause until you get to the end of the phrase. This avoids unnaturalness or loss of the meaning. Some thought can also be given to marking the manuscript to indicate where reasonably long pauses would be appropriate. Pauses can create expectation, give emphasis and allow time for the material to be absorbed. It is important also to identify peaks or high points in the talk. These can be marked, enabling you to build to a good climax, then change pace.
12-15. Why is advance preparation especially important in Bible reading?
12 Bible reading. Bible reading is vital for young and old alike. Often there are situations that call for reading the Bible out loud. There may be such assignments in the Theocratic Ministry School from time to time. And all of us read scriptures when we talk to people in our ministry. But do we read them well? Have we practiced them so we do not stumble, so we emphasize the portions that fit our argument and so our reading sounds natural, conversational?
13 Preparation is surely needed when it comes to reading from the Bible. Keep in mind that this is the Word of God, that it is filled with passages of extraordinary beauty and emotion, as well as accurate and logical reasoning. We should seek to reproduce it worthily for the benefit of listeners. If we know in advance that we are to do some Bible reading, careful preparation should be made, to avoid stumbling at unusual words, phrases or styles of expression.
14 Consider that thrilling occasion when the returned exiles of Israel assembled in the public square before Jerusalem’s Water Gate to give rapt attention to the words of their God. Were those assigned Levites ill-prepared, slipshod in their presentation? The record answers: “They continued reading aloud from the book, from the law of the true God, it being expounded, and there being a putting of meaning into it; and they continued giving understanding in the reading.” (Neh. 8:8) Those readers had deep respect for the Supreme One, whose words they were transmitting to fellow worshipers.
15 Whether reading aloud for our own personal benefit, in the family circle, at the Kingdom Hall, or to someone on his doorstep, let it be with the aim to reproduce faithfully the original material, with all its feeling and faith-building power. This motivating power of public reading is underscored in these words recorded by the apostle John: “Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it; for the appointed time is near.”—Rev. 1:3.