Reading Out Loud


by Raymond M. Coulombe

Most of our reading is done silently. If we are clever our lips don’t even move. Historically, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, there’s some scholarly debate that silent reading is a fairly recent development.

I’m not sure about that, but maybe we should read out loud more.

When not everyone could read, reading out loud was a form of entertainment. We still listen to books today, but it’s in the form or audio books. Is it much different from listening to a live reading? Actually, a live reading has some advantages. Just like a musician’s live performance gives him feedback and energy, the reader also has the opportunity for audience feedback.

Reading out loud is a social activity. We read to our children who cannot read for themselves, but then we stop. Where else is reading out loud accepted in the modern world? Readings from the Bible in church is one place. In the old Cuban cigar factories, a reader was employed to read the newspaper to the workers as they toiled. I’m sure it makes the day go by faster.

Authors should practice reading out loud. When you are asked to give a reading from your most recent book, it’s good to be able to do it smoothly and without hesitation. If you get really good at it, you might want to consider recording your own audiobook. Few writers do that, as it is a skill that takes practice to do well.

When I was a teenager hanging out with my geeky friends in study hall we’d read Science Fiction or Fantasy rather than doing our homework. It was common to share lines from our books that caught our fancy. Usually it was to share something particularly funny or clever. Once in a great while we’d share a partially poorly written bit to make fun of it. We had fun.

Read out loud to your significant other. It can be very romantic. Of course, choice in literature is important. You probably won’t get too much romantic attention for reading the repair manual for a classic motorcycle. Then again, if that’s what excites your lover, go for it.

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