Books: to be Read Aloud or Silently?

When I read the second page about the difference between telling a story and books to myself silently, I found it to be difficult to stay focused. Although it was only the second paragraph in the passage, I found myself having to reread it when other quotes were mentioned, such as the one by Cervantes. When I read it for a second time out loud, I found myself paying attention to details more and truly understanding how the quotes tie into the passage as a whole. I connected better with the text when I took my time to read it out loud as opposed to when I read it silently to myself, I glazed over certain lines. Although, I often read books silently to myself, I catch myself thinking about other things and not giving my full attention to what I am reading. When I take the time to read it out loud, I find myself more attentive to the message that the author is trying to get across. 

I believe what makes the “strange art of silent reading” so strange is that certain books are meant to be shared with the world and with others, and when we simply read it to ourselves, silently, we are not sharing it with others. However, I don’t think all books need to be read aloud and shared with others. There is a special relationship between the author of the text and the reader. For some books like a devotional or prayer book, the relationship should be kept private. On the other hand, for books like the Bible, a novel or poetry, they are written with the purpose to be shared and spread with others. The same goes for biographies and memoirs, people are writing their stories so they can be shared with others and they may learn from it. For example, some people may choose to read Pride and Prejudiceby themselves but there is a different experience when stories are told to a large group of people all actively listening and engaging. 

St. Augustine of Hippo courtesy of the “Catholic Online”

In St. Augustine’s Confessions,he writes, “whatever motive he had for his habit, this man had a good reason for what he did”(Borges), this is in response to the difference between reading things silently or out loud. St. Augustine elaborates that there is a motive behind every habit, some words are so powerful that they should be preserved and only read silently, while others should be announced for all to hear. I do believe, that Augustine is correct with this point that every author has a motive in mind about how their work should be presented, but it is up to the reader whether they follow suit. 

I personally enjoy reading books silently because I feel that I can connect better with the author and what they are trying to say, however, I think I would get a different experience if I read aloud more often.

Work Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis. “One the Cult of Books” (1951) Selected Nonfictions (New York: Penguin, 2000). Ed. Eliot Weinberger. Trans. Suzanne Jill Levine and Eliot Weinberger.

2 thoughts on “Books: to be Read Aloud or Silently?”

  1. Personally, I totally agree with the results of your “experiment” in the first paragraph; when I read a text aloud, the physicality of voicing it (the movement of my vocal cords, the hum in my throat, the movement of my tongue and lips, etc.) makes it harder to lose focus. In my opinion, reading a text out loud is to embody it, for the passing moment of articulating it. But, then, I also like your distinction between “private” and “shared” texts. I like the idea of a silent text nesting intimately in my mind. I would complicate your distinction by adding that some poetry seems more given to voiced reading – or even performative reading – than other poetry.

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  2. I have trained myself to know when to slow down in regards to texts with odd pacing, so reading the passage silently was not as troubling for me; I thank my Arthurian Literature course for that one. I definitely agree that slowing down and reading the text aloud is much more beneficial for the text. Regarding your note at the end, there are definitely different experiences when reading a text aloud, even if the text is already an easy read while indulging silently. Sometimes character dialogue, overall tone, and other literary aspects shine through better upon reading aloud, so experimenting with different texts may throw in a surprise or new interpretation that once seemed absent. I hope to try reading some of my favorite books out loud and discover something new after considering some of these benefits.

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