About a week and a half ago, I attended Laura Sassi’s picture book master class. During one of her workshops, Laura pulled out a stack of children’s books and started reading excerpts from them to illustrate some of her points. As she shared the stories, someone posted in the comments, “Any one else LOVING being read to?” I smiled. I was definitely loving it.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple joy of reading aloud and being read to. We tend to think of story times as something just for kids. Parents are constantly encouraged to read to their children because it helps with literary skills and social development. Then we get older, and we learn to read for ourselves, and suddenly reading aloud is no longer part of our norm. Aside from occasional events such as author readings or writing critique groups, we rarely get to experience sharing a book with other adults or having someone read specifically to us. Which I think is a shame.
The power of reading aloud doesn’t disappear just because the listener is capable of reading the words themselves. Even as adults, I think most of us still enjoy hearing a story and sharing the experience of it with others. We just don’t get as many opportunities to do so. Maybe if we recognized the benefits of reading aloud for adults, then we’d find more time for spoken stories.
So Here are 3 Reasons Reading Aloud is Good For Adults, too:
1. Reading Aloud Improves Our Speaking Abilities.
As the reader in story time activities, we get the chance to hone our communication skills. We practice our enunciation and gain confidence in our voices. Speaking in public is scary for many of us, but reading aloud is a low pressure opportunity to grow in that ability. We don’t have to think about what to say next or worry about forgetting our lines. We just read. The simple of act of using our voice helps us to become more comfortable doing so. The skill of reading aloud, in turn, can help us with everything from giving talks as authors to presenting during business meetings to reading at Bible studies. Even as adults, we never stop learning and growing, and improving our reading skills.
2. Reading Aloud Lets Us Interact with Stories in New Ways.
Hearing stories gives us as writers the opportunity to experience books differently. We get to listen to the rhythms of the narrative and let the flow of the story catch us in its currents. The whole of the book becomes the focus, rather than the individual words. As a result, we get to soak in aspects of the narrative that might have taken a backseat if we were reading it ourselves. The tone of certain scenes might suddenly be more prominent than the beauty of individual lines. Or maybe the characters come to life in a new way, because we’re experiencing them through someone else’s interpretation. All in all, listening to stories aloud can help us to think about stories differently, which in turn can inspire our creativity.
On the flip side, reading our own work aloud to others gives us the benefit of in-the-moment responses. We get immediate feedback, hearing laughter during funny moments and seeing tears during heartbreaking scenes. Sharing our work in person is one of the best ways to recognize what works in our books and what doesn’t. It can also be incredibly encouraging when we see our words have an impact on someone else.
3. Reading Aloud Builds Community.
The most important benefit of reading aloud is that it creates a bond between those reading and those listening. I remember in college, we would have poetry nights on campus. People would come and share their stories and poems. Sitting in that room, I felt close to students I didn’t even know, all because we were experiencing the words together. On other nights, my friends and I would sit in a circle while someone shared a picture book they found or read random chapters of The Hobbit just because it was fun. Those evenings felt safe and comforting even when we were tired and worn out. Reading aloud creates an atmosphere of calm and connection that lets us relax. In the midst of the story, the rest of the world can be forgotten, and we can just share the joy of each other’s company.
Perhaps that’s why we as adults enjoy listening to others read aloud. It lets us reenter the space of security a child feels when curled up in a parent’s lap. Reading aloud to others lets us form a bond of familiarity with people we have nothing else in common with. Stories are a safe space for us to welcome strangers as though they were family.
So how can we make reading aloud a more common part of our lives?
The easiest way to start is by talking with friends and family and seeing if there’s anyone interested in reading with you. For example, you could talk to your spouse about picking a book to read as a family in place of T.V time every now and again. Or you could try starting a book club with some friends who have a similar taste in books. My friends and I did, and now we video chat once a week to read a few chapters together. We’ve had a lot of fun, as well as enjoyed some great conversations because of it. Another possibility is suggesting that your writing critique partners (because we all have those by now, right?) plan a night to just read work aloud to each other. No editing, no critiquing, just sitting and enjoying each other’s finished pieces.
Whatever you choose to do, I hope you’ll consider finding opportunities to make reading aloud part of your fellowship with others.
What are some of you favorite memories of either reading aloud or being read to?