Have you ever tried reading aloud to yourself or another person? Perhaps you should. A new book called The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon (a Wall Street Journal writer) explains the many benefits of doing so. Reading something aloud improves your ability to recall it by 15%. It is calming – reading should never be a race, and when you read aloud, you are forced to slow down. According to the author, “you need to think about reading aloud as the difference between driving a car and taking a walk. You will notice small things about the environment, things that you wouldn’t when driving.” You can read aloud for just a few paragraphs, or you can keep going for an hour – that’s up to you.
As always, you have to choose your book carefully. Newspapers are no good for reading aloud – they are made for skimming and flicking around. Poetry is fabulous, and of course novels by such writers as Dickens were written with reading aloud in the forefront of his mind. And I am always happy to read some Jane Austen to myself and the cat.
You can of course listen to an audio book and I am a huge fan of that form of reading – audio books have enormously enriched my life. Others are catching on to the love of audio and in the UK sales of audio books have more than doubled in the last five years. But reading aloud to yourself is a different experience from listening to another reader. I once met a couple who climbed into bed each night and read aloud to each other – a chapter a night, with him reading one night and her the next. I felt envious of their intimate literary experience! Reading aloud is supposed to make you smarter, happier, healthier and more closely attached and, in my view, it works better than meditation or meditative breathing if you want to relax. For children, it is even more important and improves attention spans, vocabulary, and fosters a love of language and literature.
Gurdon’s book was sometimes contradictory and was not especially well written, but I did love her premise. I have always known how valuable reading aloud is, so needed no convincing, but I’m glad that someone has written a book trying to persuade others to fit into their lives an “enchanted hour” of reading aloud to themselves or another person.
Do you ever read aloud? If so, who to? Tell me in a comment below.
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