Reading out loud benefits the brain (True?)

We spend hours and hours in front of academic manuals when facing an exam, be it oral or written test. Those endless moments in the library studying to get a test are the evidence that memorizing is not easy. 

The key is the study method. How many times do we become absorbed and repeat what we have learned out loud? It is a very effective way to reinforce what has been studied, but … is it more useful than reading silently?

In this article we will talk about the benefits of reading aloud, what are the advantages and disadvantages and what this activity contributes to the brain.

Reading out loud benefits the brain

Reading aloud encourages early language acquisition, a taste for reading and a broad future vocabulary, as well as fostering bonding.

Reading aloud has many health benefits. Reading, in general, has many benefits for cognitive, affective, social, emotional and personal development. Recently, it has been discovered that reading aloud shows significant differences in the activation of the cerebral cortex in both cerebral hemispheres.

In terms of anatomy, there is more gray matter and more neurons in the brains of readers. Reading aloud is a good path for people of all ages. Pregnant mothers who read aloud during the gestation stage favors the affective bond and the boy or girl develops a sense of hearing by making them recognize the voice of her mother.

Reading is a faithful companion for life. Never disappoint, or abandon, or go out of style. From before birth until you get old, it brings many benefits. Not only to those who read, but also to those who listen.

When you retreat to that moment of peace and tranquility that reading inspires, it is very likely that you will not verbalize the lines that appear in the book. In general, reading aloud is only used when there is a third person who is interested or you want to be interested, such as reading a story to your children before bed.

However, recent research attests to the enormous mental health and wellness benefits of reading aloud – from improving memory and improving our understanding of complex texts to strengthening people’s emotional ties to one another.

Well, since the world is world, stories have always been told by the fire that helped not only to catch the dream, but also to share and build the culture of a community.

Studying by reading aloud or silently, which works best?

How is studying most effective for you? Many people study by reading silently, while others do it out loud. If you are one of the latter, you are likely to walk around the place where you are studying while reciting what you have read or learned. Sometimes you may even start a conversation with yourself. But what is more effective: studying by reading aloud or silently?

What we suggest is that both options be used, because as we will discover below, both reading aloud and silently enhances different aspects. Although we prioritize and give more importance to one of them, we are going to see what each contributes and subtracts.

Study in silence and visual memory

When we study in silence, the ideal is that we carry out a first reading in which it is fairly clear to us what the text we are reading is about. However, this cannot be left alone in this. After that first reading, it is important to underline the important ideas, stop on what is not clear and reflect or seek information that dispels the questions.

It is important to underline and make annotations, even to use colored highlighters, because doing so favors our visual memory (remembering the location of an information facilitates the process of rescuing it from our memory: retrieval).

In addition, the use of colors also makes us pay more attention, that we focus on what we have previously judged as most important.

The importance of studying by reading silently is that we can concentrate on what we are reading, but if we do not do more than just read, this action will not help us much. The reason is that we need to work actively with the element of study, make it our own.

Not only reading, but also writing, noting, putting with our words what we are assimilating. Herein lies the crux of the matter and where studying by reading aloud has a lot to offer us.

Studying by reading aloud strengthens knowledge

When we study by reading aloud, something happens and it is that the ear begins to be part of this experience, which is why the cognitive capacities related to memory, attention, understanding are awakened … This act activates the ability to retain and store information that our brain has.

However, as we mentioned in the silent reading, there is something else … Isn’t it much easier for us to hear an explanation from others than not reading your own notes? 

This is because what has been read is given a personal value, it is explained in different words, but also one can ask doubts, question, debate. This enriches the study and favors our memorization process.

When we study by reading aloud we make connections. Suddenly, we link what we are saying to something previously read or on another page. 

We make a mental scheme that can help that scheme made in silence or that reading that we had done without speaking aloud. It is an ideal complement that consolidates knowledge and records it in our minds.

Reading aloud stimulates memory in children and the elderly, in addition to improving their level of well-being

One of the people who has inquired the most about the virtues of this reading aloud is Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, who has shown based on research that those who practice it remember words and words much better if they read them aloud.

In this sense, it is an effect that stimulates memory that has a strong influence especially in children, but also for the elderly. “It is beneficial for any age range”, says an article on the subject of the ‘BBC’.

“Production effect”

MacLeod has called this curious phenomenon the “production effect”, referring to the fact of ‘producing written words’, that is, reading them aloud.

This was demonstrated in a study carried out in Australia in which a group of children aged seven to ten read a list of words, some silently and others aloud. When later asked about those they remembered, those who read aloud remembered 87% of the terms, while those who read them silently could only reach 70%.

In some way, this phenomenon is reminiscent of the well-known trick of studying by asking yourself the lesson. As studies and specialist teachers have shown, diction out loud is not only useful for children, but also for adults.

In another study, a group of 67-88-year-old adults were asked to read aloud a series of words that they should later remember and write with a pen on paper. In this way, they could remember 27% of the words they read aloud, while those who read silently could only memorize 10%.

“Spoken words stand out from those that are read silently, they are distinguished from them because they are spoken, and this gives a basis for them to become part of memory,” explains MacLeod.

Another cause of this curious effect is because it involves the person in active participation, which even if it is minimal, exists. After all, words come to life with the voice and not with silence.

Another trick to memorize data and specific details is enactment. For example, if you bounce a ball and for each bounce it gives you pronounce a series of words, these will later be remembered due to the relation of the bounce of the ball to them.

Memory associates a specific act that emerges from daily activity or that is unpublished with those data or terms that you have memorized.

And listen carefully to someone else’s reading? A study from the University of Perugia in Italy brought together a group of students to read to a group of elderly people with Alzheimer’s for a total of 60 sessions.

At the end of the study, the listeners performed better on memory tests than before the experiment, as the stories they were told made them draw on their own memories and imagination, helping them to classify past experiences in a sequential way. “Actively listening to a story leads to more intense and in-depth information processing,” the study authors concluded.

Greater well-being

For many of those surveyed in all studies, reading aloud not only improved their cognitive ability, but also brought them a higher rate of well-being, comfort, and most importantly: a sense of belonging.

“Some participants who spoke about this experience said they felt grateful, as if the story were a gift of their time, of their attention, of their voice,” says Sam Duncan, a researcher at University College London who led a study over 500 people across the UK.

“This is what we appreciate when we read stories to children; it is based on a feeling of closeness and togetherness. It is something that we do not do too much with the elderly.”

Why do we get used to reading silently so quickly? According to Karenleigh Overmann, a cognitive archaeologist at the University of Bergen, in Norway, for a matter of speed and mental agility.

“The ability to read silently has had great benefits, especially speed,” she explains. “Reading aloud is an act that slows down your ability to read quickly.”

Perhaps there lies another of the peculiarities of its effect. In a world as fast-paced as we live in, it would not hurt to give a few minutes a day to read slowly, carefully and out loud.

Not only for a mere favor to our ability to memorize, but also to share and be closer to those people we love and surround us with. And that ultimately, they would be delighted to hear the story from beginning to end.

Although studying by reading aloud is a very good option, we cannot rule out the others – usually what we try is to memorize material with meaning and no single words. A combination of all of them can provide very satisfactory results.

Some people will be better off studying reading silently, recording themselves reading the same text, and then listening to themselves. Others will choose to read aloud from the beginning and then study silently by writing or making outlines about what they have learned.

In this sense, it is about that, using what the research tells us, each person adopts the methodology with which they achieve greater performance.

FAQS: Reading out loud benefits brain

Is reading out loud good for your brain?

For adults, reading aloud has many advantages: from helping to enhance memory to knowing nuanced messages, as well as reinforcing people’s interpersonal connections.

Does reading out loud make you smarter?

Reading aloud activates your brain’s ability to store information.

What are the five benefits of reading aloud?

  • Stimulates imagination and creativity
  • Improve reading fluency and comprehension
  • Enhance attention and concentration
  • Improve your spelling
  • Improves memory

Why is it important to read out loud?

Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills. … Reading, in addition to promoting and stimulating language (even before the child learns to speak), will also help improve cognitive skills, motivation, curiosity and memory.

Is it better to read aloud or silently?

First, reading aloud activates your brain’s ability to store information. Second, reading increases the capacity for visual memory, and third, the effect of self-reference makes information more personal and, consequently, easier to remember.

In this article we talked about the benefits of reading aloud, what are the advantages and disadvantages and what this activity contributes to the brain.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Duursma, E., Augustyn, M., & Zuckerman, B. (2008). Reading aloud to children: the evidence. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 93(7), 554–557. https://doi.org/10.1136/adc.2006.106336

‌Batini, F., Toti, G., & Bartolucci, M. (2016). Neuropsychological benefits of a narrative cognitive training program for people living with dementia: A pilot study. Dementia & Neuropsychologia, 10(2), 127–133. https://doi.org/10.1590/s1980-5764-2016dn1002008

‌Icht, M., Bergerzon-Biton, O., & Mama, Y. (2016). The production effect in adults with dysarthria: improving long-term verbal memory by vocal production. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 29(1), 131–143. https://doi.org/10.1080/09602011.2016.1272466

‌Pritchard, V. E., Heron‐Delaney, M., Malone, S. A., & MacLeod, C. M. (2019). The Production Effect Improves Memory in 7‐ to 10‐Year‐Old Children. Child Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13247

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