Reading Aloud Is Good For You

Forget silent reading, children need to be make some noise.

Research tells us that reading aloud can be highly beneficial and we should therefore be promoting ‘oral production’, especially for revision.

Forrin and MacLeod’s 2017 study ‘This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself’ is interesting because it tells us that the act of reading aloud and the experience of hearing ourselves read is advantageous.

When we add an active measure or a production element to a word, that word becomes more distinct in long-term memory, and hence more memorable.

Forrin and MacLeod set up their study as follows:

75 students were recorded saying 160 words out loud at their psychology lab and asked to return two weeks later.

The students then revised half of the words that they’d encountered for a memory test in four different ways:

1. They read 20 of the words to themselves silently;

2. They heard a recording of someone else reading 20 words;

3. They heard the earlier recording of themselves saying 20 more of the words;

4. They read the last 20 words out loud to themselves.

The memory test that followed was a recognition test containing 80 words they’d revised and 80 words used two weeks’ earlier. When they saw each word, the students’ had to say whether it was one they had just studied or not.

The researchers found the most effective revision method was reading the words aloud which they explained as “the production effect” which describes the memory advantage we obtain by voicing things out loud rather than just hearing the words.

This study conforms previous work by MacLeod (2011) and that saying aloud some of what you are studing makes that portion more memorable.

What MacLeod found was that personal production makes a considerable difference,

The activity of another person producing can certainly be processed and used for remembering, but one’s own actions are more direct, more distinctive – more embodied – and hence more memorable due to their uniqueness.

In the 2017 study, Forrin and MacLeod  found this production effect is influenced by a combination of three factors:

  1. reading things aloud involves motor processing, making it a more active process.
  2. when students read words, it requires an element of visual processing, which may lead to deeper learning rather than just listening.
  3. reading aloud is self-referential (i.e. “I said it”), which can make the information more salient.

If we ask learners to read in silence then they don’t experience any self-referential or auditory stimulation.

Of course we read to ourselves a lot in silence but these results suggest that when it comes to revising reading out loud is better for us because we will remember more.

Say it out loud…and to someone else.

We just love to hear the sound of our own voices and the more senses are better!

Other researchers in Canada have found that repeating words aloud boosts verbal memory.

Victor Boucher and Alexis Lafleur, of the University of Montreal. They asked 44 students to read a selection of words from a computer screen and were asked to repeat the words in four different ways: silently, reading while moving their lips, repeating the words aloud while looking at the screen, and repeating the words aloud to another person.

They found that repeating the words to another person resulted in the highest verbal memory recall.


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