The Gift of Reading Out Loud

The surprising benefits of adding audio to your reading routine

Are you a silent reader or a noisy one?

Alone or together? Paperback or Kindle? Silently or aloud? No matter what rituals you choose, reading is a powerful habit that improves your vocabulary, enhances your imagination and reduces stress. These benefits extend further when you turn that lonely activity into a social one, so break the silence this August 9 and share your fascination for reading on National Book Lover's Day.


book lover
Photo credit: Getty Images

Between the covers of your book lie exciting stories and dialogue just waiting for someone to bring them to life. If you’re a voracious but silent reader, try reading aloud for a change of pace. Narrating isn’t just for parents and children; it also has vital and fascinating benefits for adults. 


Break the Silence

There was a time when reading was largely a social activity. In ancient times, storytelling was all oral, as gifted poets memorized entire epics to share with rapt audiences. As printed books became popular, people used to gather and switch roles between readers and listeners and immerse themselves into poems, novels or performances. 

Despite our modern predilection for curling up alone with an e-reader, some people still strive to keep this habit alive. If you’re a proofreader, literary agent, professor, parent or student, you’re likely to be among the lucky group that practises the art of reading aloud. Kids usually read along with their parents, but once they’re old enough to read by themselves, this habit slowly transitions into a solo activity that no longer generates a conversation with loved ones. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents interact with their children through books as early as infancy. Increased vocabulary, listening skills, curiosity and memory are just a few of the advantages of sharing a book.

But what happens to adults? Do these benefits expire once you hit a certain age? 


Good Mental Exercise 

It turns out that the dual action of speaking and reading to yourself — or to others — helps with verbal recall. Research suggests that pronouncing the words of a book improves your memory of what you’ve read. Being a reader and a listener boosts imagination, sharpens focus and helps with comprehension. 

The benefits of reading aloud are particularly helpful for seniors. According to research conducted by Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, "People consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This memory-boosting effect of reading aloud is particularly strong in children, but it works for older people, too.” 


How Do You Consume Information?

No doubt about it: Technology has changed how people read. You can store hundreds of books on small devices, connect instantly to libraries, and listen to audiobooks. While convenient, these fast, interactive tools cause constant disruptions in the reading process. It's easy to wander among websites and lose track of the story you were reading or find yourself struggling to find the exact minute of a quote with an audiobook.


Photo credit: Aleksandr Kichigin


That doesn't happen with a book in your hands and the power of your voice, though.

Audiobooks are great for commuters and for people with little time to sit and read. However, after long periods of listening, you can get bored with that distant, faceless narrator’s voice. 

Beth Rogowsky, an associate professor of education at Bloomsburg University, studied how well students absorbed material by changing the way they consumed the information. Her research suggests that electronic devices reduce learning and comprehension compared to old-fashioned books. Also, with audiobooks, it's easy to lose track on the narrative because it’s difficult to go back to a specific quote.

With physical books, the reader usually focuses solely on the text and follows the narrative with no internet disruption. By pronouncing the words and sharing them with someone else, you not only get better retention and focus, but you also get the benefit of bonding with others, sharing thoughts that can lead to meaningful conversations.

In 2017, Story Terrace commissioned research to explore the impact of the Digital Age on the art of storytelling and found that the United States is becoming a nation that no longer shares genuine, face-to-face conversations because of the increase of screen time. Back then, Americans spent 23.6 hours online each week and could go months without an authentic conversation.

That’s why shared experiences like reading with loved ones are crucial to help maintain bonds and meaningful relationships in this fast-paced digital age.


Books Bring People Together

Reading aloud is a social activity that strengthens emotional bonds among people. It’s an opportunity to connect with your loved ones by sharing both fiction and non-fiction ― or even your personal memoir. Imagine the fun of a Read Out Loud Party where your friends and family take turns reading a chapter from a book about your life! 

people together
Photo credit: Getty Images

No matter what book is in your hands, reading aloud provides incredible benefits for your well-being. It’s also a very pleasant way to pass the time! So let your inner voice out to play, and give yourself and your loved ones the gift of reading out loud. It might change the way you read forever.


If you’d like to tell your story aloud to our professional writers, contact StoryTerrace to get started on your or memoirs. You can also sign up for our newsletter to learn more about how to bond with others through books.


Image credits: by Thought Catalog, Laura Fuhrman & Alexandra Fuller

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