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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Gardner

Silent Reading vs. Reading Out Loud

We’re all guilty of having our own individual reading traits. Some of us like to read every single word in detail and really digest the information, while others skim-read, flitting back to re-read a sentence or two every now and then.

When we’re younger, reading forms a huge part of our lives, not just in the classroom, but on a daily basis. We absorb information from everything we see, from billboards and books to cartoons and cereal packets.

Our reading style is something we develop when we’re younger and stays with us into adulthood. Admittedly, it may become more refined the older we get, but those early formative years are when we establish our relationship with reading, whether it’s out loud or silently.

It’s not uncommon for students to prefer reading out loud over reading silently and vice versa. In fact, silent reading vs. reading out loud is a subject that’s attracted widespread debate for some time.

Here we share some of the main advantages and disadvantages of both options:

The pros of reading out loud

1. It helps build confidence – being able to read whole sentences and paragraphs at a time, clearly and with minimal errors, is a natural morale-booster, especially if students are doing it in front of their peers.

2. It can help improve attention span – having to read something out loud involves having to slow down and really focus on what’s being read in order to say it correctly.

3. It develops connections between the spoken and written word – seeing words written down, and then having to say them reinforces the link between the way words look and sound. It also boosts vocabulary too.

4. It can be more enjoyable – especially for children who enjoy reading. Being able to read out loud, pausing at commas and putting emphasis on certain words, makes the overall reading experience even more enjoyable.

5. It boosts brain power – research has found that reading stimulates brain activity, meanwhile wider research has revealed that reading to children from early childhood has the power to promote brain development.

The cons of reading out loud

1. It can be nerve-wracking – especially if students doubt their reading abilities. Reading out loud in class puts additional pressure on students to perform well, which can potentially lead to mistakes.

2. It can be difficult to absorb what’s being read – because students are so focused on reading the words, interpreting the information in their brain and then saying it out loud.

3. It can be easy to mispronounce words – due to the fact certain words don’t sound how they look. This is something that’s particularly reinforced when reading aloud.

4. It can be tricky to read at the right speed – if they’re feeling nervous, it’s not uncommon for students to read something super-fast to get it over and done with. As a result, this can invariably mean they haven’t absorbed much or any of what they’ve just read, as we’ve just mentioned above.

5. It can be seen as a ‘tick box’ exercise – teachers may see the value and purpose in getting their students to read out loud, but their students may not fully understand the importance of this task.

The pros of reading silently

1. It can be quicker than reading out loud children can reportedly read anywhere between 80 and 185 words per minute. But when we silent-read, it’s possible to increase our reading speed because it involves seeing words and understanding them (there isn’t the reading aloud step in between).

2. It doesn’t involve reading out loud – a bit of an obvious point, but one that’s important to those who aren’t so keen on reading out loud, especially in front of others.

3. It can encourage students to develop a love for reading

– because silent reading isn’t as daunting as reading out loud. It can be invaluable for encouraging students to enjoy reading and develop a special relationship with it.

4. It’s useful for helping visualize what’s being read – less time is spent on pronouncing words, opening up more time to form a mental picture of what’s in the text.

5. It’s something you can do everywhere – in class, at home,

on the bus - because silent reading is a silent activity, it’s something students can dip in and out of whenever they like without disturbing anybody!

The cons of reading silently

1. It can be difficult to detect any problems – if students are struggling with their reading, it may be more difficult for teachers to detect it unless the student comes to them for help or advice.

2. It’s not always clear how little or much students are absorbing – again, as with the point above, students may be flying through the text, but how much of it are they actually taking in?

3. It overlooks pronunciation – what sounds right in your students’ head may not be correct in reality. However, because they’re reading silently, they won’t necessarily realize when they aren’t pronouncing words correctly.

4. It can feel quite isolating – particularly if students feel that reading isn’t one of their strengths and it’s something they struggle with.

5. It can be easily overlooked – busy lives make it more difficult to find dedicated time for children (and adults) to sit quietly and dedicate 30 minutes, an hour, or more to silent reading. If possible, encourage your students to establish a reading routine that hopefully stays with them for the rest of their life.

It’s clear to see why these two reading styles have generated, and continue to generate, such widespread debate. Generally speaking, reading out loud is great for boosting children’s confidence and developing their reading skills, while silent reading builds upon these foundations by improving speed and imagination.

Reading out loud can really help boost children’s vocabulary. For more, visit BoomReader.

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