Friday, February 15, 2013

What's so special about reading aloud?

As a children's librarian, I have interactions with children who cannot read, those who struggle to read, and those who voraciously read. Yet whatever a child--nay, a person's--age or reading ability, I've found that people consider it a treat when someone reads aloud to them.

What's so special about reading aloud?

Reading aloud connects us all to our cultural ancestry, to a time before ebooks and the printing press and lay literacy, when the only way to tell stories was out loud. Technological developments in the book world haven't dented the human appreciation for stories, and listening to a book read aloud resonates with a fundamental need to connect with the world through words, imagination, and stories.

Reading aloud allows us to rejoice in the rhythm and melodious sounds of words. There is such beauty in language, and I love to share that with others. I'll often read a sentence or passage aloud to my coworkers or the children in the library simply because of how beautiful it sounds.

Reading aloud gives listeners shared experience. I love to share funny books aloud because group laughter is infectious and momentous. I regularly have classrooms of preschoolers talk to me excitedly about a book we shared months before, simply because the experience of sharing that book was a touchstone for them. I also often take my favorite picture books home for visits to read aloud for friends and family after dinner simply because shared stories are wonderful. Reading aloud together creates strong bonds.

Reading aloud is comforting. One of my favorite summer programs is a Book Bunch Picnic Lunch series, where families bring sack lunches to the library and eat an indoor picnic while I read aloud. I love to see just how much older school-age children in particular enjoy listening to stories despite the fact they can read them on their own. Being read to feels safe and relaxing and luxurious.

Reading aloud gives us mantras and meanings that enrich our lives. "I think I can, I think I can!" "Let the wild rumpus start!" We internalize the lines and stories that we hear and love; they stick with us. My mother and I can still recite the first several pages of Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book--that's how much we read it together and loved it. And while it may seem amusing that I know an intro to a Dr. Seuss book by heart as a 26-year-old, I would firmly argue my life is better for having bits of books inside my brain.

What do you think is special about reading aloud?


This post is part of the World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge, which features weekly blog prompts leading up to World Read Aloud Day on March 6. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more WRAD Blog Challenge posts, culminating in details on the implementation of my library's WRAD program!


  1. Amy, I'm throughly enjoying all of your varied and itnersting posts--and this one is especially well-timed. I was just asked to address a group of supporters/ advocates for a Philadlphia city literacy group and if it's Ok with you, I'd like to share this list with them. Thank-you for this post!

    1. Jen, please feel free to use the post! I'm glad it resonates with you.

  2. We are preparing for WRAD here at our small rural library in West MI. We are inviting 4 classes from the public schools (within walking distance) to come to our library at different times to be read aloud to by staff other than myself who always reads to kids. We are planning on video taping about 11 people from the community with our Flip video camera a head of time - reading their favorite picture book/poem/excerpt from a book. We then will be posting one video at the top of each hour that we are open that day on our Webpage & Facebook page.

  3. I love those benefits you chose. But also, for me, reading aloud promotes a combination of dramatic performance with a shared text. As a read-alouder, I love that I can engage kids with my voice and face and body as I bring the author's words to life. Children's eyes swivel from me to the illustrations and back and somehow our combined imaginations take flight and we create something joyous.


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