1 July 2019 Susannah

Reading Aloud

Reading a book

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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Featured image credit- Woman reading Background фото создан(а) freepik – ru.freepik.com
Body image credit- The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon, https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/36300637

Comments (10)

  1. Melody

    I’ve just been on holiday in Thailand and one of the “local” books I read while there was Anna Leonowens’ “An English Governess at the Siamese Court”. Her descriptions of the society and the history of what is modern Thailand really resonated with the things we were seeing and doing during the day, so I started reading it aloud to my partner when we collapsed into bed at night. He always fell asleep part way through the chapter…

    • Susannah Fullerton

      That’s sounds like a great choice – to read about the place you were seeing during the day. And it shows how nice and relaxed your partner was that he fell asleep listening to your soothing voice.

  2. I am wildly supportive of reading out loud. For all the reasons that Susannah has already alluded to. The most useful piece of advice I have ever received (and pass on to others) is to read aloud; particularly works like Shakespeare where the rhythm and meter of the prose evoke emotional responses in the reader. Such responses can help readers to understand what the text is supposed to say, or even better, what the subtext is really saying.

    I have a friend who loves to read. She married a man who had dyslexia and now a frequent past time for them as a couple is her reading books aloud to him. I think it’s one of the most intimate and romantic practices I’ve ever heard of.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Wow, that is lovely – her reading to him so that they can share the joy of books even though he has dyslexia. Thanks for telling me.
      And I totally agree about reading Shakespeare aloud – so important and after all, hearing the words is what Shakespeare intended.

  3. Miland Joshi

    I’m all for public libraries. But here’s a hazard: when I visited Birmingham’s new Central library a few years ago, which Malala Yousufzai opened with her ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ speech, I noticed that certain subjects weren’t very strong. It turned out that the building cost so much that they couldn’t afford to buy books or hire specialist librarians! Which rather defeats the purpose of such a thing.

    The story of the burning libraty also reminded me of Syria’s secret library in Daraya, now sadly no more – the contents were confiscate dby the Syrian state forces and taken away in trucks. Here’s a BBC report from when it was operating:

    Here’s an Al0Jazeera article:

    Mike Thompson wrote the book “Syria’s Secret Library: The true story of how a besieged Syrian town found hope”. which I may look out for in paperback.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, it’s very sad when the building costs so much there’s no money left for the books to put inside it.
      Thanks for the recommendation of the book about the Syrian library.

  4. Alexandra Young

    Hi Susannah,
    Following one of your talks at the Art Gallery I took your advice and started to borrow talking books from my local library, what a treat it was whilst driving round in traffic to have Poldark read by a wonderful English actor. I now have an app om my phone and can borrow talking books from the same local library, the choice of books is excellent.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh I am so glad I have made another convert to audio books. They make all the difference to driving, cooking, ironing etc. I just love them and feel they enrich my life enormously. Keep up the listening pleasure!

  5. Kathy Burgess

    In the days leading up to my mother’s passing, I read Seven Little Australians out loud to her from her childhood copy of the classic book.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      How lovely. I read it to my daughter and we both sobbed over Judy. Then we watched the film version and sobbed all over again.

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