Reading aloud is something that remains constant in education from primary school to the postgraduate level. Universities around the country have conducted studies about the benefits of reading out loud and the positive effects it has on students and professionals. The list of reasons why reading aloud helps people seems infinite. From a teacher trying to expand the student’s academic abilities to the student trying to make his homework error-free, reading out loud provides a host of beneficial qualities.
If one were to think about any kindergarten classroom, undoubtedly the first image that comes to mind is a teacher reading a book to a sea of entranced children. Fast forward almost 30 years later, and the scene has changed. At the end of formal education, the student is now presenting their dissertation. The child has now taken the place of the teacher, and the professors look up at their pupil. This is the last assignment in the American educational tradition. One thing has remained throughout those years; reading aloud.
The student graduates with honors, and their parents are so proud. Finally, the student will make something of their life. Bright-eyed, they get started working on a résumé. While in the lobby of a doctor’s office, the student stumbles across an article in Vogue Magazine about tips to build a solid resume. Right there, in front of the recent graduate’s eyes, are the words: “Carefully read each line of your résumé aloud.”
This tip is important because reading out loud, or being read to, activates more parts of the brain than reading silently. The benefits of reading aloud seem infinite; from helping students edit their papers to aiding in the development of the language center of the brain.
The University of Iowa has done extensive research on reading aloud in the classroom as a pedagogical tool. Their Center for Teaching has put out a pamphlet titled, What Are the Benefits of Reading Aloud? When reading through this short pamphlet, it is easy to see why the practice is a teaching standard.
Some of the Benefits Listed Include:
- Creates a classroom community through a text known by all.
- Creates discussion where listeners can use their own experience or knowledge for a deeper understanding.
- Improves information procession skills, vocabulary, and comprehension.
- Activates audio learners in the classroom.
- Creates ‘narrative transport’ (much like a meditative state), where the listener is transported into the story. This state of mind promotes “active and deeper learning.”
- Aids in the development of active listening skills.
- Captures the “physicality of words.”
This abbreviated list reflects only some of the ways this reading strategy can aid the students’ development. Reading out loud can also aid in student performance. In fact, the practice of reading assigned work out loud has long been a staple of the editing process and is used both in and out of the classroom.
A quick glance at the University of Minnesota’s Writing Center web page will show that reading out loud is very near the top in proofreading strategies. Placed fifth on the list, the first four strategies are techniques that should be done before editing a paper at all. But why would reading aloud be so beneficial in the editing process?
Reading Work Out Loud:
- Focuses the mind on details like spelling and punctuation, and activates attention.
- Reveals which sections or words of a sentence are unnecessary.
- Aids in weeding out less emphatic material.
- Helps develop perpective and improves the writer’s voice.
- Helps writers sound more human and less robotic/bureaucratic.
It is plain to see that when completing any form of writing assignment; whether school, work or pleasure, reading out loud is an invaluable source. Second to having a personal editor, reading work out loud is the best tool around.
Whether in the classroom or not, teaching or editing, reading aloud helps in so many ways. From the moment a child reaches kindergarten to the time they blossom into young professionals to perhaps even reading to their own child some day, reading aloud will be a part of the rest of their lives – one of infinite benefit to themselves.
Commentary by Harrison Baker
UMN Writing Center: Student Writing Support
Forbes: To Write Like A Human, Read Your Work Out Loud.
UMass: Revising by Reading Aloud. What the Mouth and Ear Know
Image Courtesy of Princeton Public Library’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License