Reading Aloud is Allowed
Last week I went along to Ashley Court care home to hear authors from Scotland’s Stories of Home read to some of the elderly residents. It was an experience that was highly rewarding for all involved – the authors, the residents and also myself.
There is something very enjoyable about hearing someone read aloud, particularly when they are bringing their own work to life; stories take on new meaning and resonance, they become more personal and easier to relate to. As the listener we pick up subtleties in tone, patterns and details that we gloss over when we impress our own meaning on it, which we inevitably do when we read to ourselves.
It’s also incredibly relaxing and slightly hypnotic – perhaps too hypnotic for some, there were some snoozers! – but it reminded me of being small, sitting on the carpet and listening to our teacher read us Robert Burns. Reading aloud seems only allowed when we’re children, ill or getting old. It is quite unusual that, as an adult, I would be in a situation where I would hear someone read aloud from a book, but the afternoon made me realise how much I actually enjoy it.
There is no reason that this activity should be limited to the young, the sick, or the elderly as it has lots of benefits. On a basic level, it is a form of interaction and communication, we get pleasure from it because we’re having an exchange with another human. But it also improves our concentration, focuses our minds, and allows us to reflect while we listen.
Reading aloud is particularly beneficial to the elderly - it’s been shown to improve memory; help with depression and also benefit sufferers of Alzheimers
This said, reading aloud is particularly beneficial to the elderly, a group that often come up against challenges with reading. It’s been shown to improve memory; jog recollection; help with depression and also benefit sufferers of Alzheimers and dementia - reading aloud is great all-round mental stimulation.
Some of the benefits of the afternoon could be seem immediately; the group was engaged and hearing others’ stories prompted many to share their own tales and memories. The short story format worked particularly well, with some of the listeners commenting they no longer had the concentration or memory to tackle longer books these days.
Reading aloud can be rewarding for the reader too - our authors obviously enjoyed meeting the group, sharing their work - and seeing the conversations they sparked! - and not to mention the confidence boost it created.
I left that afternoon with a renewed appreciation for reading aloud and all its benefits; how the simple task of reading – something most of us take for granted – takes on new importance and enjoyment when shared with others.