To Read Aloud or Silently?

I noticed a difference when I read the essay out loud and silently. When I read the essay silently, I noticed that I’m not connected to what I’m reading. It seemed as though I was just skimming through the pages. I’m more focused on the words than what they mean. Because I’m skimming, I tend to miss what I should be taking away from the reading. Skimming also causes me to reread what I’ve read so that I get what I’ve missed. Also, I found reading silently, I tend to be more distracted. I’m more focused on trying to figure out words mean, length and random things that come into my head due to word association. Reading out loud, I’m thinking about the meaning of the text. I also think about what it is that I should be taking away from the text. The biggest thing for me is, when I read out loud, I believe that I understand what I read more.

Back then, reading silently was considered strange because it was something everyone wasn’t doing. According to, before the 17th century, reading was something that people did out loud. The website goes on to say, “silent reading was in fact rare or rude in ancient times” (Thu-Huong Ha). Another reason people read out loud then was because everyone wasn’t literate. Reading out loud was not only a way to inform everyone, but also a way to teach and learn. It was in the 17th century, the idea of reading out loud shifted. This was due to the spread of literacy and the different types of reading materials. Because literacy was more common, there wasn’t a need to read out loud.

I believe that books should be read out loud. I think reading out loud, allows the reader to get a better understanding of what they are reading. However, I do agree with St. Augustine comments he made while observing St. Ambrose reading silently. Specifically, I agree with these reasons to read silently, “We wondered if he read silently perhaps to protect himself in case he had a hearer interested and intent on the matter, to whom he might have to expound the text being read if it contained difficulties, or who might wish to debate some difficult questions” (On The Cult). These reasons can take up your time from actually reading the book. Or they could make reading less enjoyable. I do find myself torn on the comment on the debate. I do think it can take up time from your reading. But I also think that a healthy debate can help you better understand what you’ve read. Someone challenging you forces you to support what you said. So, you have to think about what you’ve read to do that. This may not be possible unless you read out loud or they’ve read the book.

Works Cited:

Borges, Jorge Luis. “On the Cult of Books.” Trans. Eliot Weinberger. A Book of the Book, eds. Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay. (New York: Granary Books, 2000). 

Ha, Thu-Huong. “The Beginning of Silent Reading Changed Westerners’ Interior Life.” Quartzy,Quartz, 20 Nov. 2017,

1 thought on “To Read Aloud or Silently?”

  1. Chanel, I found the same article and mentioned it in another comment! I’m finding that most of us have the same experience: when reading silently, we lose focus. I like how suspicious Augustine is of silent readers: they must be hiding something! There must be something in that text that they don’t want others to hear! They must be shunning conversation and debate!

    Personally, I notice that reading out loud is very powerful. In parallel, maybe: I find that I learn by teaching. Language is, inherently, social; it is meant to be shared. When I read silently, which is, truly, what I most often do, is something missing? Do I become the passive listener, instead of the active speaker of the text?


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