Reading Out Loud

I recently completed the final revisions to my latest book, A Thousand Ways Home. As I was nearing the finish line, I read the entire manuscript out loud. It’s a habit I’ve gotten into, whether I’m writing a blog post, a short story, or a novel.

Reading the manuscript out loud might be my favorite part of the writing process. It allows me to hear the words I’ve chosen and feel the rhythm of the sentences. It isn’t until I speak and hear the words–not just see them–that I know my work is done.

Reading aloud obviously isn’t just for writers. As parents, most of us read to our children when they were young. Reading to kids isn’t just a form of entertainment. When doing it interactively, it can increase a child’s comprehension skills, build trust, and enhance social and emotional skills. According to research conducted by the Brookings Institution, children tend to smile and laugh more when being read to by a parent than they do when listening to an audiobook.

In the days before radio and TV and computers, people routinely read out loud to one another. Sadly, that habit has been lost. I say “sadly” because there were tangible benefits to reading aloud.

According to Alexandra Moe, writing in The Atlantic, reading aloud “can boost the reader’s mood and ability to recall. It can lower parents’ stress and increase their warmth and sensitivity toward their children. To reap the full benefits of reading, we should be doing it out loud, all the time, with everyone we know.”

Reading aloud produces other health benefits. as well  According to Moe, “It can prevent cognitive decline, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure. In one study, book readers outlived their nonreading peers by nearly two years.”

I admit, I love audiobooks and I listen to them often. But audiobooks don’t provide the same benefits both readers and listeners receive from reading aloud. Don’t get me wrong. Audiobooks are great. But the most benefits from reading come from reading aloud.

Finally, reading aloud is also good for your relationship. Anecdotal evidence suggests that couples who read to each other feel more connected to one another and tend to be in a better mood, especially when reading to each other right before bed. This type of out loud bedtime reading tends to strengthen relational bonds through a shared experience, and gives couples a common point of interest that tends to spur deeper conversations.

One final benefit that is more difficult to quantify but is no less real is drifting off to sleep to the sound of your significant other’s voice. What could be more romantic?


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