When you are good at reading, it is easy enough to be called on in class to read aloud. As a student who enjoyed books and reading, this was never a cringe-worthy moment for me.
However, as a student who joined late into learning a new language, I experienced the other side of the coin. Reading aloud in a language I was still learning, with a group that was far ahead was stressful and embarrassing.
As an adult, while reading aloud to my young daughter I’ve noticed the following benefits. Several of these are, I think, applicable in classroom reading as well:
- Reading Aloud helps you quickly gauge your reading fluency. How fast you read, and whether you pause at the right places, cues the listener into both your reading and comprehension level at the same time.
- Reading Aloud makes you conscious of pronunciation. Words that make you hesitate or slow you down (even as an adult!) are because of the uncertainty in pronunciation. Just as I used to look up the meaning of a word, I also find myself looking up correct pronunciation these days.
- Reading Aloud ensures you don’t skip words or meanings. Sometimes when we read, we get the gist without taking in all the words. Reading aloud slows the reading process down and ensures you are reading complete sentences, thereby internalizing sentence construction and story structure.
- Grammar and punctuation errors are often more obvious to the ear than the eye. When I worked as a copywriter and proofreader, I would regularly read aloud some paragraphs to check if they “sounded” right.
- Reading Aloud can expand a child’s vocabulary. Words that are commonly used in speech can often be found in books. Young children exposed to these “big words” which they cannot read, helps raise comprehension and add new words to their vocabulary.
- Reading Aloud tends to hold your focus deeply on the text. By physically vocalizing each word, ensuring right pause and pronunciation, the whole of your attention is on the reading material. This is an excellent way to train mental concentration, particularly, for young readers.
I was probably in the 5th grade before I was able to comparatively reflect on my lack of reading confidence in one class for the same task in the other. And I found my solution as well. Practice. When we were reading aloud in class, I would start counting the number of students to my turn, and then count the paragraph I would have to read aloud, and practiced silently till it was my turn.
And my teacher noticed… “VERY good, Vidya! Next.” Amazing what a small, yet timely praise could serve to encourage a student.
In hindsight, it also solidified my confidence to read and write in a new language.
Even new parents know how valuable reading to their children can be— pediatricians and education officials recommend it be a regular habit in every family household. Now modern medical technology is allowing scientists to see exactly how reading can benefit brain development.
The study, from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to prove reading exposure prior to kindergarten has a measurable impact on how a child’s brain processes stories. There is no previous direct evidence of reading’s effects on the brain.
The study was conducted with 19 children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, whose guardians completed surveys designed to measure cognitive stimulation at home. Included in the survey were questions about parent-child reading, access to books, reading frequency and book variety, parent-child interaction, and teaching of specific skills like counting or shapes. Thirty-seven percent of the participants were from low-income households.
The children’s brain activity was measured while listening to a story on headphones during an fMRI. There was no visual stimulus or sedative involved.