November 13, 2022

The Benefits of Reading aloud

I have the absolute privilege of being able to write decodable books, then use those books in my literacy lessons. It is a huge advantage for me, and means the books are getting tested in a real learning environment.


When I first started using Bookbot with my students I noticed some unexpected benefits to the way the app worked and this lead me to further investigation on the benefits of reading aloud.


For those who have not yet tried Bookbot, a brief explanation is necessary to make my point. Bookbot uses voice recognition technology. So when the child reads aloud from the text on the screen, the AI is listening to provide some positive reinforcement and feedback where needed. Voice recognition technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and Bookbot can determine if a word has been read correctly with amazing accuracy. BUT if the reader slurs words, guesses, pronounces the word incorrectly or tries to race through the text, Bookbot will not recognize it.


For my students using the app, this lead to a remarkable change in the way they read aloud. They slowed down to be more accurate, pronounced words more clearly and  stopped guessing at words . This attention to detail quite rapidly paid off in swifter, more fluent reading with a much greater accuracy overall. I was delighted.

a screenshot of a page in Bookbot showing the word tracking bar.

But there are other benefits to students reading aloud.

A recent study in Australia explored how reading aloud increased retention of what has been read. In the study, Colin M Macleod (University of Waterloo) referred to this phenomena as the Production Effect.


The Production affect occurs when a reader needs to 'produce' a word vocally. As part of that process, different areas and functions of the brain are in use, compared to when a word is read silently. This, in turn, has proven to result in a higher likelihood of word retention which can last up to a week (without further practice).


This memory boosting affect works at any age, but is particularly strong in children.


In a recent article produced by The Centre for Teaching (University of Iowa) it is stated that reading aloud also benefits those learners who are strongest in an auditory learning style. Tapping into a student's preferred or strongest learning style was a big focus when I studied for my Education degree back in 1993. It remains a consideration today.


And while, 'barking at print' (the ability to read a passage aloud but comprehend little) is certainly a consideration, generally it can be observed that ...'Through intonation, expression, and attention to punctuation, the reader demonstrates meaning embedded in the text' (Centre For Teaching, university of Iowa).


Then of course there is the social benefit. Generally when someone is reading aloud, there is an audience. Listening to a child read promotes bonding as we give them the gift of our time.


Personally, I read dates, times, and facts aloud to myself all the time in an effort to remember them. In doing the research for this post, it only confirmed my choice.

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