I make no apology for the pun! Reading aloud is encouraged in youngsters to help them develop their vocabulary and rightly so but, unless you are a performance poet or oral storyteller, this habit is forgotten in adulthood. I think this is a shame. I find it is a real treat to be read to and it makes a lovely connection to the old oral storytelling tradition too.
Benefits of Reading Aloud
Incidentally, I will say now, nobody says you have to get it right all at once. It is far better for someone to develop confidence in reading (whether it is aloud or silently) by building up what they can do rather than to “knock them down” because they mispronounced a word, stuttered, or what have you.
The more you read out loud, the more confidence you will develop as you get better at doing this. It is a question of picking the right material for the right reader too.
There is something about reading out loud that helps you to appreciate the rhythm of the prose better than if you just read silently. Okay, you will get some odd looks if you do read out loud on the bus (and even more so if you’re the bus driver!),and so on, but give it a go when you’re at home and you should hear what I mean. You will pick up on how the dialogue flows and so on.
From a reader’s viewpoint, hearing the words out loud makes you pay attention and I believe you take in more.
Why Reading Aloud is Useful for Writers
Writers are encouraged to do this (and I often share it as advice) for this very reason. Just because something looks good written down does not mean it is easy to read. If you trip over what you read out loud, then other readers are likely to do so, and it is definitely time to edit what you’re working on.
The aim is always for clarity. It means simple writing but that is not the same thing as simplistic. The trick with editing is to not lose the spirit of the story or article but to express it in a way that “flows” as that will encourage the reader to keep reading it. Easy to read writing is never just put on the page.
The writer will shape and hone their material to get to this effect and it takes plenty of practice and learning from errors to do it. You needn’t ask how I know…!
As you read out work, you will hear how a writer has put their prose together and that will encourage you to look at whether you can improve the way you write yours.
It has been a great joy over the last year or so for me to take part in Open Prose Mic Nights (Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – and I hope to get the opportunity to do so again this year) and to read at the Bridge House Publishing and Cafelit events.
Last Saturday, I had the great joy of reading an extract from my story The Professional, which was one of the winners in the Waterloo Art Festival’s Writing Competition held at St. John’s Church.
The theme was Transforming Beings and all of the writers had to write to a maximum of 1000 words. The 15 winning entries have been compiled into an ebook called Transforming Beings which is now available on Amazon etc. What was lovely about the event was 15 writers took the same theme and 15 very different stories emerged. (I understand there were close to three figure entries for this competition).
What was also nice was some authors read out their entire story (especially if it was under 500 words), others like me read out an extract (as for once I wrote right up to the 1000 words limit), and the styles and characters were all engaging.
One of the best ways to support a writer, outside of buying their books (of course!), is to go along to reading events like this. We always appreciate that support and it is a lovely form of entertainment for you. I’ve not been to any such event where the writers don’t put their heart and soul into performing their prose or poetry and that does show. It is that which engages with the audience more than anything else I think.
I was asked beforehand whether I was nervous about doing this. Not now is the answer. I have had years of reading Bible lessons in church. (There are some truly awkward to pronounce names in some parts of the Bible and if you can get those right, you will be good for most material after that!). I was also taught many years ago how to project my voice with a very simple trick, which has stood me in good stead.
With my own stories, I have the advantage of knowing the material well and I’ve learned from experience to not read fast. Keep your speaking rhythm steady and you will be less likely to go awry.
Giving yourself time to take in sufficient deep breaths, to pause every now and then, also help with the reading “performance”. Re-read the material a few times before going “on” and remember you are trying to convey your own enjoyment of writing the story to people you hope will enjoy listening to it (and maybe later reading it in book form too).
The fun bit is being able to “throw yourself” into your character’s voice and almost “perform” the tale. After all I know where the emphases should be!
Enjoying Being Read To
Listening to the other stories and extracts on Saturday was so entertaining. The variety of the stories was incredible. Many thanks to Ana Coelho for taking the picture of me reading and for kind permission to use it. The one problem I have at events like this is taking pictures of myself in “full flow”. This is where you do count on your reading and writing friends to help you out! Naturally you do the same for them (and I’m glad to share a few pics of what was a most enjoyable event).
I have also found at signings etc that if I can get the opportunity to read a sample flash fiction story, it shows in the best way possible what flash fiction is and people cotton on immediately. It has led to a few sales too so nothing to dislike there then!
There is also something special about being accepted as a writer by your fellow writers. The sense of support within the writing community is pretty good. I learned years ago that, even if writing in the same genre, no two writers write with the same voice. You write best in your own voice. Your only competition is with yourself and there it should be to always “up your game” whether it is by getting more work published, developing writing in other ways etc. Most writers take the same view and are so encouraging to others.
Standing on a stage with other writers or waiting in the wings for your turn to go on also encourages mutual support, as the adrenaline rush is understood by all here!
Audio books are a wonderful invention and are another great way of keeping oral storytelling going. For those reluctant readers, having something where someone can professionally narrate you a tale is marvellous. I can think of several long car journeys I’ve been on where we’ve been entertained by the Discworld novels on audio CDs.
Going to the theatre is another way of enjoying “being read to” in a sense. The difference here of course is the story is acted out but you are still taking in the story by using your ears to do so! The story is still got across orally. You still have to pay attention. And there has never been a writer anywhere who doesn’t want their readers to be attentive!
It is never easy for a writer to make a living from what they do. A recent study from the Society of Authors shows that most writers are below the minimum wage on earnings from writing alone. Practically everybody has to supplement royalty income etc by going to festivals, taking part in reading performances etc (which also gives you the chance to sell books too).
What most writers want though is to engage with readers via their stories and performing said tales out loud is a great way to draw people in. I would hope performance poetry and prose would encourage more reading too. I’ve heard people perform poetry and stories and if I like what I hear, I nearly always go and check the books out. I can’t think of any writer who wouldn’t want that!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
Never miss out on another blog post. Subscribe here:
Subscribe to Blog via Email