The benefits of reading aloud and reading silently
As indicated in Part One of this series on reading there are various different types of reading. In this article we will discuss reading aloud and silent reading. These two reading methods exercise different developmental skills for children and it is therefore vital to practice both.
Reading aloud focuses on expression and reading accurately. A child who can read fluently with accurate expression and appropriate use of punctuation is considered a strong oral reader. They are also able to articulate effectively through correct pronunciation. Correctly applying these skills indicates that a learner is establishing a feel for the text as well as an understanding of grammar. Likewise, their writing will start to reflect good use of grammar even though they may not yet be familiar with more advanced grammatical concepts such as the active and passive voice.
Reading aloud can show whether a child has grasped three of the foundational reading skills: phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency. A child who can articulate demonstrates accurate pronunciation (indicating strong phonetic and word decoding abilities). Skills such as word recognition and spelling also increase with a child's growing ability to read.
Questions and discussions about the text will help to determine the reader’s level of understanding of the vocabulary used, as well as their general text comprehension.
Accurate expression demonstrates that a child understands the emotion behind the text. A child who battles to grasp poetry can also benefit from reading aloud, as it coaches them in gauging the correct tone for the poem. Utilising whispers or louder tones express different meanings, adding suspense and anticipation to the reading. If a child is unable to emulate the correct emotion for the text this could indicate difficulties in comprehension. Sometimes a young child can use expression, but not apply it correctly, for example the type of exclamation used to show an order (‘Bring me that!’) can be read as an exclamation of shock or surprise (‘Ouch!’).
Punctuation: strong punctuation is shown by the application of long pause by a full stop, question mark and an exclamation mark. Sometimes a long pause is used when semi-colons are present. Shorter pauses are used for commas, dashes and brackets. The use of the appropriate expression for an exclamation mark and question mark versus a full stop (used to show a statement). Punctuation allows the reader to pause and gather their thoughts and understanding of the text.
A young reader who uses the correct punctuation and expression develops strong verbalisation and presentation skills. This means that the audience listening to them can follow along with ease, and is also allowed to gather their thoughts about the text and encouraged to engage with the reading or presentation. If the reading is paced and leisurely the audience has the opportunity to process what is being presented. By comparison, fast or interrupted reading or presentation can leave the audience bored and distracted. This influences the ability to create motivational and persuasive orals or presentations (which are frequently used in high school for all subjects). This can be described as vocalisation. Solid vocalisation skills pave the way to powerful presentation skills. Furthermore, a child with excellent oral reading skills will communicate clearly and effectively with their peers as well as adults. This skill gives an individual a distinct advantage in school, their career and their social life. The ability to communicate efficiently in a job interview, for example, equates to a higher chance of being employed.
Children should be motivated to read aloud even past their earlier years. Frequently, children start to read silently when many of their reading aloud skills are not optimally developed. This can cause difficulties later on which could be avoided with continuous practice in reading aloud. Both aloud and silent reading have their own advantages and it is ideal for a young learner to master both.
The definition of reading silently as given in our Reading, Part 1 article:
“The ability to read accurately without reading aloud. Reading silently does not determine or demonstrate the effective skills which are components of proficiency in reading aloud. Reading silently also does not show a comprehensive understanding of the text.”
"A definition of fluency in silent reading is the ability to read with sustained attention and concentration, ease and comfort, at adequate reading rates (for various grade levels) and with good understanding." (Taylor – unfortunately the original source is no longer available)
Silent reading is often used in the classroom for the following reasons: It creates an environment for all learners to participate at their own speed and according to their own level. It also helps with preparation for exams and to add variety to reading tasks. Silent reading develops a variety of skills, like skim reading and scanning for important information in the text. It also helps the reader to cover more information (due to reading faster) and often improves understanding, as the reader is focused purely on the text, not on pronunciation or fluency.
Maija MacLeod states that there are two types of silent reading: intensive and extensive. (http://fis.ucalgary.ca/Brian/611/readingtype.html) Intensive silent reading refers to the focused and detailed reading of a text. This text is usually short, dealing with commonly accepted ideas and topics. This form of silent reading develops rapid reading skills and focuses on comprehension development in areas such as word attack and text attack skills, as well as assimilating non-textual information.
Extensive silent reading is reading to ascertain the gist of a text. The topic is usually broader and less detailed than with intensive silent reading. Extensive silent reading broadens vocabulary skills as the scope of information given is broader: more varied sources are used.
Skimming versus Scanning
Skimming is the quick reading of a text for general understanding. This involves getting the gist of what the passage entails, assessing the structure of the passage and what the author's intention is. It tends be sequential.
Scanning is the quick browsing of a text to find specific information. In other words the reader scans a text with the intention of finding something in particular. These skills form two important steps in developing stronger comprehension and analytical skills with regards to reading and writing.
Reading is unarguably one of the most valuable skills we can teach our children, and one that adds a whole host of benefits and dimensions to a child’s life. With out the ability to read, or to read well, we are deprived of not only achieving academic excellence, but daily life also becomes a struggle. As we have seen above, reading also supports and helps develop good interpersonal communication skills, without which we as humans cannot navigate our existence as part of the communities in which we live. Giving your child the gift of reading, and instilling not only a love of books but a thirst for knowledge, will set them on a lifelong relationship with the written word from which they will forever reap benefits and which will continue to enrich their lives.