The Lost Art of Reading Out Loud

When was the last time someone read out loud to you? For most of us, we haven’t had the pleasure since we were children, unless you listen to audio books of course, although that isn’t quite the same. Scientific research suggests that the benefits of being read to go beyond getting a child off to sleep- an organisation has popped up to spread reading groups across the UK. I went to a reading-out-loud book club experiment last night.

The guest took us through a revolution sweeping the country, well a small organization called The Reader Organisation in Liverpool but it’s growing. Instead of meeting once a month and reading a whole book on your own, the idea is that short stories or extracts are read and discussed as you go along at the meeting. You enjoy the whole experience as a group and see each other’s immediate actions, or read a whole book together with weekly meetings (this works better in care homes, hospitals, and similar environments). It was something all the book club members enjoyed, not enough to give up our traditional book club but it inspired us all to read to others aloud, get audio books, and bond with someone else by reading something together (taking it in turns of course or you’ll get a pretty dry mouth). Some of us even wished we had the time to have both types of book clubs- greedy. For me, it was a nostalgic trip back to my English A Level classes, minus the frustrated teacher, which I have missed a lot.

When you read aloud you don’t skim past the little details, it’s reading more slowly so you linger on the language a little longer and take in more than just the basic events and characters- concentrate a bit harder I suppose. And, even if you missed a great little minor part of a chapter, maybe the person reading with you picked it up. Perhaps you will just make sarcastic comments, whatever you like to do…

We read a story from A Little Aloud, an anthology which includes edited extracts or short stories picked solely for the purpose of reading aloud. Each extract or story is followed by a short poem on the same topic and reading notes to get those cogs turning. It was pretty fun to be able to chip in little comments about parts as we went along, thoughts or jokes you never get to share with anyone except your own mind, unless you’re one of those annoying people who tell people the whole plot of a book just to share a line which made you laugh. I can’t encourage you enough to give it try to see if you can enjoy the health and happiness benefits science says comes from being read to. A great place to start is by borrowing A Little Aloud from your library (another great past time), snuggle up in bed and read to your best friend or partner. Then come back and let us know how you got on! Perhaps you may even consider setting up a reading group in your local library.

If I haven’t convinced you then maybe Stephen Fry will:

“I’ve always known that reading aloud is one of the paths to greater happiness in my life. It’s rather pleasing to hear of research baking this up convincingly. But reading aloud isn’t medicine to be swallowed to make one feel better. It’s pleasure. Pure pleasure.”

Were you read to as a child? Any favourite book or poems which are great when read aloud?


2 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Reading Out Loud

  1. I love this 🙂

    I ask my partner to read out loud to me occasionally in bed. He sometimes obliges but I find I’m a very quick reader when reading in my head so i sometimes zone out at the slower pace of being read to when he reads and with audiobooks – if this makes sense? I’m a bit of a type a personality I suspect!

    Love your blog – came over from your comment on The Reinvention Tour.


    • That definitely makes sense, one of the advantages that the book club had was that we could follow in our own copy of the text (the library has several copies of the books we do as a group). I was thinking it would be a great idea for people or are really busy, like my mum, who has a high pressured job and loves reading but she doesn’t get the time. She wouldn’t have the pressure of getting through a book each month but would really enjoy just chilling out for an hour. Maybe for some of us who (I have poor concentration too) who will just drift off we shouldn’t be read to in bed, maybe somewhere a bit less comfortable =S Glad you like the blog, please come again soon- it’s so exciting to have new readers. Katie x

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