5 reasons why reading aloud isn’t just for children
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I still read aloud to my 9-year-old daughter every night. It doesn’t matter that she’s devoured the Harry Potter series on her own at least 5 times. She loves the together-time and having me there to discuss the story or explain a difficult word.
But I have to admit … it’s not just for her benefit. Over the years, I’ve realized that reading aloud is as valuable to me as it is to her. Here are 5 reasons why I’ll be looking for excuses to continue the habit long after my daughter has grown up.
1. It improves your reading
The act of reading aloud forces you to slow down, focus and reflect on the content. If you let your mind wander, your audience will notice because you’ll stop reading. This greater awareness can make you more emotionally involved in the story. I recently surprised a friend’s children by bursting into tears while reading them Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb’s moving picture book The Paper Dolls. It’s not something that happens when I’m just skim-reading to myself.
2. It can develop your writing skills
If reading aloud makes you appreciate language, then it’s likely that becoming more aware of tone, diction, structure and narrative will also improve your writing. Professional authors have long known the benefits of reading their work aloud. In his Harvard Business Review article called “The Benefits of Speaking Aloud,” Jerry Weissman recommends recording the process. But even reading someone else’s text can make you critically aware of what works … and what doesn’t. Typical problems like awkward dialogue and poor punctuation can be solved by simply stating what’s on the page, revealing the rhythm and pauses of natural language.
And yes, I did read this blog post’s final draft aloud, and realized that it wasn’t the final draft after all. I identified far more corrections than I’d seen when simply skimming the content in my head.
3. It improves enunciation
I have a habit of speaking very quickly, while my husband tends to mumble. Regularly reading a story to someone else (and a critical little person, at that) has made us more aware of how we sound and how to ensure we are understood. We’ve both heard these benefits transfer to our everyday conversations. Our intonation is better, and we’re careful to add tone and emphasis to our voices. When we have to give a speech or presentation, we now know how we can get our message across most effectively.
4. It develops your study skills
When we read to ourselves, we say and hear the words in our head, which helps us to understand and remember them. Reading aloud increases this effect. Students and their teachers have long known the benefits of reading textbooks together. Repeating facts, and having the opportunity to discuss them, helps the knowledge sink in.
If you’re learning a new language, saying words or phrases out loud develops both pronunciation and comprehension skills. The Language Portal of Canada features a list of English second language resources and a list of French second language resources to help you with these skills.
5. It’s fun
Despite being rather shy in everyday life, I delight in using different voices and accents. It’s all the joy of acting without the terror of being onstage. I was never much of a Dr. Seuss fan when I was young, but I was hooked from the first time I read Green Eggs and Ham to my toddler.
If you don’t have a small child available, why not read to complete strangers? For example, LibriVox, a non-commercial, non-profit project, encourages volunteers to record their readings of books in the public domain, in any language, and releases them as free downloadable audiobooks.
Of course, you can always read to yourself. What better opportunity to really let go and take pleasure in the pure joy of words? You can’t be held back by shyness if there’s nobody else to hear. Try a little Gerard Manley Hopkins or Jacques Prévert or, if you’re not a poetry fan, see how dramatically you can read a cook book or instruction manual.
I’d love to hear about your experiences of reading aloud. In the meantime, you can find me trying to capture the perfect voice for Bellatrix Lestrange.
The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.
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