Whether it’s a book, magazine or newspaper, or a latest post in the newsfeed of our favourite social media channel, when we’re reading to ourselves, it tends to be a private affair, with the words going no further than the boundaries of our minds. But did you know that to read silently rather than to read out loud could mean we’re missing out on a number of life-improving benefits?
Reading out loud is something that’s often associated with bedtime stories, presentations or performances. But research is increasingly suggesting that reading aloud may actually benefit us in a number of ways.
It’s something I personally do to help me limber up when I’m recording a voiceover, and I get a lot of benefit from it. But it turns out that there’s a lot more to reading out loud than we all thought.
A study of memory retention
A study carried out by researchers Colin Macleod and Noah Forrin at the University of Waterloo in Canada revealed that reading words out loud made them easier to recall compared to reading them silently.
The study focused on four different conditions to uncover the elements responsible for improved memory retention. A subject group of 95 students were asked to read silently, read out loud, listen to recordings of other people reading, or listen to a recording of themselves reading. Memory retention was found to be strongest when reading aloud directly, which would suggest that speaking the words as well as hearing them made a difference. But why could this be?
Well, it’s all associated with the ‘production effect’, the action of verbally pronouncing a word creating a memorable experience. As the word is ‘encoded’ into speech, it helps it settle into the long-term memory.
The study demonstrated that when listening back to recordings, students were better able to remember those recorded in their own voice than someone else’s. This would suggest that hearing your own voice stimulates self-recognition, which helps to make the content more memorable.
So that’s the science bit covered. But what of those life-improving benefits that reading out loud can bring us?
Why is it so good for us to read out loud?
When we read text out loud, we get to enjoy a range of benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the most enriching ones.
1. Reading out loud can enhance your vocabulary
When you read something silently, you tend to gloss over words that you may not necessarily know the meaning of. But when you come across a word that you’re not quite sure how to pronounce, reading aloud prompts you to take more interest in that word. To learn how it should sound, and what it means. This is actually quite a joyful experience, like a journey of discovery.
Of course, expanding vocabulary is most beneficial. It can help you write more creatively, and indulge in more fruitful conversations. And of course, it could boost your Scrabble prowess too!
2. To read out loud can help sharpen focus
Do you ever find your thoughts drifting off when you’re reading to yourself? It’s quite common. But when you read out loud, your full attention is fixed on the task at hand. Without even realising it, you are immersing at a much deeper level in what you are reading, and in doing so strengthening your verbal and mental skills, and pushing your imagination that bit further.
The written word seems to carry a great deal more meaning when read aloud. Words sound sharper and more intentional. This tends to refine focus, which gives the mind a good work out. Try it for yourself, and see how alert and refreshed you feel afterwards!
3. Reading aloud can improve understanding
When we read text out loud, it tends to sink in and become more deeply engrained in our minds.
Many people learn better by listening. As the research we discussed earlier revealed, memory retention improves when reading out loud. This is because we make the words our own, fully absorbing them rather than simply glossing over them.
4. Practising reading out loud can make you sound more interesting!
Let’s face it; no one who reads out loud is going to want to sound dull. You would just end up boring yourself silly! When we recite words out loud, we naturally tend to make use of a wider vocal range. This is because in the back of our minds, we are reading with the intention of being heard.
Give it a go, and guaranteed you will find yourself putting in a whole lot more effort than if you were reading to yourself. Pausing at commas, rising up at exclamation marks, emphasising italics and sounding inquisitive at question marks. Not only does all of this add character to your voice, which could potentially open all sorts of doors for you in terms of career and education (and confidence!), but it’s also a great deal of fun. And we all need more of that in our lives!
5. To read aloud can improve listening, reading and writing skills
When you get into reading out loud, it can make you more mindful of things that you hear and read. It also helps you appreciate proper grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. This all enhances interpretation, not just helping you to learn by listening, but also giving your writing skills a boost too.
All in all, your listening, reading and writing will become more enriched the more you read out loud.
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