Is it Better to Read Out Loud? Does it Even Help?

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I don’t know about you, but when I tried reading out loud to myself at first, I saw an increase in my confidence and a positive change in my voice! It got me thinking – is it better to read out loud? So, I did some research, and here’s what I found out!

It is better to read out loud than silently if the environment allows you to do it. The benefits if you read out loud for yourself include better concentration, memorization, sharpened focus, and greater comprehension. If you read aloud for your children they learn to love reading from an early age.

In this article, I’ll mostly discuss the pros and cons of reading out loud for yourself. But I will also touch on the question of whether you have to read out loud for your children, or rather teach them to read silently for themselves. 

Benefits of Reading Aloud

There are many benefits of reading aloud to yourself. The following are some of the most important benefits:

1. Reading Aloud to Yourself Increases Your “Usable” Vocabulary

When you are reading silently, you are not bothered by the pronunciation of unfamiliar words in the script.  You often understand the meaning of the word when you read it in context, but you don’t put your mind to it to try and remember the word and use it yourself at a later stage.

Thus, although you’ve discovered a new word while reading silently, you haven’t really added the word to your permanent vocabulary. 

If you are reading out loud, however, you are forced to pronounce the words. When you’ve pronounced the unfamiliar word aloud you’ve added the word to your vocabulary.

You’ve not only added the new word to your vocabulary, but you are now also capable to use it without hesitation in any conversation or discussion. 

2. Reading Aloud Improves Comprehension

I’ve found it interesting that since I’ve started to read aloud myself, I’m finding deeper meaning in many words. When I read silently, I’m often missing the nuances of all the words or a sentence.

The spoken word is much more powerful than when you only hear it in your head, and when I’m reading aloud these deeper layers of meaning become unintentionally part of my vocabulary. I’ve found that reading out loud positively influences my language skills.

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I’m not afraid anymore to use the different nuances of a word in my conversations and discussions with other people.

3. Reading Aloud Improves Fluency

Reading aloud helps you get the rhythm of the words and sentences and improves your fluency.

If you read aloud, especially fiction, another aspect of the text comes into play. The author of a book often puts intentionally or unintentionally a certain rhythm in the words.

For example, you will often find that when a character’s behavior is being described, the author may use short sentences with short words when the character’s anxiety or urgency is described. When a relaxed environment and character are depicted, writers often use longer “relaxed” sentences.

When you are reading silently you easily miss this usage of the words. When you read aloud you can hear and experience the flow of the words much easier.

This makes the book more interesting to read and to a certain extent makes you more of an actor playing the role of the character than only reading about the character.

With a well-written book, you can even become the character by reading aloud.

4. Reading Aloud Helps With Memorization

A study by the University of Waterloo has found that you are more likely to remember something if you read it aloud. They found that reading text aloud helps to get words and information into long-term memory.

This is something to keep in mind when you are reading study material and non-fiction books.

The study tested methods for learning written information. These methods include silent reading, listening to someone else reading, and reading aloud for yourself. 

The results showed that listening to someone else reading aloud while you follow the text silently in your book, increases the content you are remembering. But much more content is remembered when you read aloud to yourself.

The study concluded that it is the combined action of reading the text and hearing oneself when reading it that has the most beneficial impact on memory.

5. Reading Aloud Helps with Stuttering

If you stutter or stammer a lot, reading aloud can help you overcome stuttering! Reading out loud tends to shift your attention from stuttering to focusing on the written words.

As a result, gradually you will notice that there is a reduction in the amount of stuttering which may disappear after a period of time.

In fact, there are specific phrases and sentences that are recommended to help overcome stuttering. Furthermore, exercises that involve reading aloud are recommended to people that help them stop stammering!

Drawbacks of Reading Aloud

Man reading aloud in front of a mirror

Like most things in life, reading aloud does not only have benefits. There are a few drawbacks as well that you have to consider.

1. Your Reading Speed is Limited by Your Talking Speed

The main drawback of reading aloud is speed. Your reading speed when reading aloud is limited to how fast you talk. The average human speaks at about 150-250 words per minute and this is, generally speaking, the speed we read aloud.

Thus it takes you much longer to read a book aloud than when you are reading silently. This is also the reason why it is faster to read a book than listen to the audiobook version of the same book!

Silent readers read on average 200- 400 words per minute, while good readers average about 600 words per minute and an expert reader can read up to 1,000 words per minute.

If time is a factor when you read a book and you have to complete the reading in a short time, reading aloud might not be the best way to go.

This drawback can, however, be overcome to a certain degree if you do what I do.  When I have to read a lot of non-fiction text in a short time and it will not be possible to finish the book if I read the whole book aloud.

I look at the index and decide which sections need to be remembered well and which sections are only more background information. I then read the not-so-important sections silently and read the parts I need to remember well aloud to myself.

2. Reading Aloud Can Also Lead to Incorrect Pronunciation (Sometimes)

In English, words are not necessarily pronounced like they are spelled. When you think of common words like though, thought, and though it is clear that “ou” in these words is pronounced differently in every word.

When you are reading aloud and you come across a word that has a “strange” spelling or it seems as if there is more than one way to pronounce it, you can guess what the pronunciation should be. But sometimes you might be wrong.

There is a real risk that you may teach yourself the wrong pronunciation of words unfamiliar to you.

What I do when I come across a word that I can’t figure out how to pronounce is I quickly search it on my mobile and listen to the pronunciation. But this takes time and can be seen as a drawback of reading aloud.

3. Reading Aloud Can Limit Imagination

Although reading aloud allows you to discover deeper meaning in words and phrases, another important aspect of reading, namely the forming of mental pictures of what you are reading, can be diminished.

When you are reading silently your brain produces mental pictures of the character, scene, or environment you are reading about.

If you are reading aloud you can become so involved in the meaning and pronunciation of every single word that the “bigger picture” escapes your mind.

Reading Silently vs Reading Aloud – Which Is Better?

Reading silently and reading aloud have their own purpose. Generally speaking. it is better to read out loud if you want to improve your confidence, memorization, enunciation, and fluency of speech. Reading silently can help with introspection, imagination, and allows you to read at a faster pace.

We’ve looked at the pros and cons of reading aloud, but to compare reading aloud with reading silently, we have to look at certain aspects of silent reading as well. Then we can compare.

When looking at different definitions and descriptions of silent reading you’ll find that there is more than one way people read silently.

Inner Monologue

You can read silently by having an inner monologue. This is a common trait among many readers. Inner monologue is the process of speaking the words in your head as you read. In principle, it is the same technique you follow when you read aloud, but you just don’t speak the words aloud.

This is the way most of us have learned to read – word by word. Actually, when most of us were initially taught to read, we were taught to sound out everything aloud. The next step was to start saying the words in our heads.

If you still have this inner monologue when you read silently your reading speed for reading aloud and reading silently is the same. Then it is better to read aloud, as you also get all the benefits of reading aloud.

When reading fiction you may feel that you rather want the mental pictures created by silent reading, then do so. But when you have to remember the text, especially non-fiction text, change to reading aloud.

By using both methods you get the better of two worlds! 

Brain Processes the Meaning without Saying each Word in Your Head

In time, good silent readers find that they don’t have to say every word in their heads to understand and comprehend the material.

A person’s brain learns to see the words and then processes the meaning and information without you saying every word in your head.  It is this facet of silent reading that gives you the ability to read fast.

To understand this brain function, think of a yield sign on the road. Although the word “Yield” is written on it your brain recognizes the form of the sign and without reading the word you know to yield.

Thus, if speed is an important factor to keep in mind and you’ve learned to read without saying every word in your head, the better way to read is silent.

Should You Read Out Loud to Your Kids? [Or Let Them Read!]

A mom reading with her child

Reading aloud for yourself is quite different in purpose than reading for your kids. The question arises whether you should read aloud to your young kids or should you rather entice them to read by themselves.

Reading out loud to your kids is a great way to inculcate a reading habit. You can start by reading aloud at the beginning. Gradually, encourage the kids to start reading themselves while you provide the support. Your end goal should be to enable the kids to read on their own and enjoy it!

If you make the reading sessions interesting and enjoyable, your kids will look forward to the sessions. And, if the kids experience the joy of reading, they will more easily be enticed to read on their own when they are able to.

Make the reading sessions interesting

One way to make the sessions exciting and create learning opportunities is to be interactive with your kid when you are reading aloud to him or her.

Take the opportunity to link what you are reading about to other relevant topics. This is sometimes called “decontextualized” talk. The type of decontextualized talk will depend on your kid’s age. When they are still very young it can be very simple.

Use Decontextualized Talk

An example is that when your storyline tells about the ice cream someone is eating, you can “decontextualize” by asking your kids what are their favorite ice cream flavor. Is it the same as that of the character in the story?

Ask your kids whether they remember the fun you as a family has had at the beach while eating your ice cream.

From a study by E. Duursma, M. Augustyn, and B. Zuckerman called “Reading Aloud To Children: The Evidence” it is clear that talking about the story and related matters while reading aloud is one of the best methods to get your children engaged in reading.

Your child can relate to something he or she has experienced. The discussion between you and your children keeps them involved in the story. It also trains the brain to look at more layers of meaning when reading.

Left-Brain Development

Reading aloud to your children is important for healthy brain development. For children of all ages, it is important to develop a left-brain activity. The more this part of their brain is developed, the easier they understand words, and their memory is improved simultaneously.  

When you are reading aloud for your kids and creating these little conversations, make it easy for the kids to stop you from reading on if they don’t understand something. This increases the ability to comprehend text.  

Bottom Line: You Should Read Aloud to Your Kids

To teach your children to be good readers when they will be able to read on their own, it is good to engage with their reading activities from a very early age.

During these engagements ensure that the kids enjoy the reading sessions and unconsciously associate reading with fun. When they are ready to read themselves, provide them with books to read and ask them to read them aloud while you are listening and “discuss” what they’ve read.

About the Author

Akansha is a former business journalist and a seasoned communications professional. She is the founder of TheBookBuff, an avid storyteller, and a lifelong biblophile! Check out her profile page to know more about Akansha.

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