Reading Aloud: A Think Piece

Whenever I think about reading something, whether it be for school or for leisure, I never stop to wonder if I should read out loud or silently to myself. I always read silently, because I feel that reading out loud can require more energy when energy is not needed. I find it’s like taking the long way home when I know I could’ve gone the shorter way instead. However, reading out loud is nice for whenever there are no time constraints and I really want to focus a little more on the words that I’m reading. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I prefer to read silently, but I can understand and appreciate the reasoning behind reading out loud.

After I finished reading Borges’s essay the first time through without saying any words aloud I didn’t really notice much at first, because that’s how I usually read. Once I finished and prepared myself to read it again out loud it suddenly occurred to me how strange the first person who read silently to themselves must have felt! Surely, it’s a silly thought, but it was enough for me to consider how we humans approach the concept of silence. We need silence to feel relaxed and to concentrate, but refuse silence whenever we’re alone at night or amongst people we care about. It’s strange and almost hypocritical in a way; only wanting silence when it suits us most.

Upon reading through the essay a second time, I noticed that reading aloud felt more like an emotional task. I felt like I was attaching myself to these words and that they were becoming more etched into my brain. The way I phrased the words out loud seemed more monumental, as if I were making some grand proposal to a group of colleagues at an office firm. The words in my head sounded generic for lack of a better word. Maybe it’s due to the lack of an audience, because after all I don’t need to impress myself by reading in some grandeur manner. Audiences want to hear what you have to say and they won’t be able to hear anything if you’re reading silently to yourself.

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Regarding the moment when St. Augustine comes across St. Ambrose silently reading to himself, he claims that perhaps St. Ambrose wished to “protect himself in case he had a hearer interested and intent on the matter”, with matter meaning whatever subject he was reading. I agree that this is another reason I don’t read aloud in public, for I wouldn’t want any nosy person to know what I’m reading and try to give their opinions or have me explain to them what I’m reading or why. These days it is quite easy to get into arguments with people over a difference in beliefs, such as reading preferences for instance. Another reason to consider why I don’t read out loud would be that I wouldn’t wish to disturb other people and because I simply would prefer not to embarrass myself. I don’t need to read a book out loud in front of strangers like I’m trying to recite Shakespeare (although that would be a very fun and interesting public exercise!)

Works Cited

3 thoughts on “Reading Aloud: A Think Piece”

  1. Ha! I love the idea you ended on…you should try it! We’ll film you. Class experiment!
    Your post is insightful, and your main points converse with Johanna’s points (I just read her post before I read yours): Reading out loud is more taxing, more involved, and more affecting: “Upon reading through the essay a second time, I noticed that reading aloud felt more like an emotional task. I felt like I was attaching myself to these words and that they were becoming more etched into my brain.” Your post is the first to bring in the dimension of emotion, and it’s a rich and relevant piece. With speech comes action and power, but also vulnerability and disclosure–all the risks of undertaking a relationship with a potential listener, really. Lots of ways of taking this idea…I’m glad that you raised it.

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  2. You make a good point with a new method of reading feeling strange. I can only imagine how the first person thought when they read silently instead of aloud for the first time and realized, “wow, it sounds emptier without everyone chiming in their own thoughts and views on the matter!” And it’s very true that the performance aspect comes into play when you read to multiple people instead of just yourself. Suddenly, there are multiple ways to read a word, different stresses to put on a sentence to create different meanings. Great post!

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  3. I like the analogy with reading aloud being comparable to taking the long way home, where the path may be more scenic, but in most cases the shorter way is more convenient. I could picture you reading this analogy aloud, which made me laugh a bit. I don’t think I could agree with what you say at the end about getting involved in discussion with someone or having them question what you are reading; I enjoy arguments and having new people bug me. Of course, I would probably need to filter out some of my collection, which I am now realizing has some pretty bad things in it to read aloud.

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