Listen to J.R.R. Tolkien, Gwendolyn Brooks and Betty White read stories out loud

A couple reading
Read with the one you love: A young couple lying in the grass reads a book, circa 1960.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Today is World Read Aloud Day — a little-known holiday, but one worth celebrating with a good story.

The day was founded to promote literacy and encourage parents and children to read aloud to one another.

If you don't have a book handy, or if you'd rather be read to, enjoy this selection of stories and poems, read by some familiar voices.

Literary classics, read aloud

J.R.R. Tolkien reads from "The Hobbit"

This recording of J.R.R. Tolkien reading from "The Hobbit" was created in 1952, according to the website Brain Pickings. Tolkien had never used a tape recorder before, and when his friend showed him the machine, he was enamored.

In the recording, Tolkien even puts on his best Gollum voice.

Christopher Walken reads "The Raven," by Edgar Allan Poe

Can you think of a better voice to give life to Poe's haunting poem? Walken lends his creepy cadence to this hair-raising reading.

Truman Capote reads from "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Capote gave a reading from from his classic in New York City in 1963.

Flannery O'Connor reads "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

O'Connor read from one of her best-known stories at Vanderbilt University in 1959. The recording goes on to parts two and three.

Gwendolyn Brooks reads "We Real Cool"

Short, sweet, not to be missed: The groundbreaking poet reads her famous eight-line poem.

For little listeners

Betty White reads "Harry the Dirty Dog," by Gene Zion

The comedian picks up a book for the little ones, and reads the story of a dog who just doesn't want to take a bath.

Al Gore reads "Brave Irene," by William Steig

The former vice president lends his dulcet tones to the story of a dressmaker's plucky daughter.

James Earl Jones reads "To Be a Drum," by Evelyn Coleman

Jones' voice is now a national treasure, but it wasn't always that way. In this recording, Jones shares the story of childhood battles with stuttering and dyslexia, before reading a children's tale about African-American history.

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