Read Me A Little History…

Read aloud. Or better yet, listen to someone else read aloud. Really, try it!

Sound a little too dramatic? Seems kind of weird, maybe, because we don’t do that kind of think anymore. Or do we?

Have you ever watched a news anchor talk at you? They aren’t gabbing from memory – they’re reading aloud! Yep, from that teleprompter screen right next to the camera!

Guess who else reads aloud? Right – politicians. Teleprompters being the modern default, but some still use good old note cards.

Whatever the case, they are all reading aloud. We do a lot of reading these days, the Internet has made that a necessity, and so we don’t often take the time to read out loud from a book. However, back before moving pictures, radio, television, and Internet folks regularly read to each other.

Tell me a story, read me a book

On a cold winter evening around the fireplace of a rough log cabin, by the light of homemade candles, settlers would read out loud from the Bible, maybe Plutarch’s Lives (thank you Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), or perhaps a collection of Shakespeare. They didn’t have many books, but what they had, they read.

It was entertainment and education. Poetry was read aloud (sometimes from memory) as were plays, works of fiction, works of history, and religious works. It was a shared experience.

If you read aloud often enough, you begin to understand written works in a different way. Try reading the Bible silently – zoom through a few verses in the historical books of Chronicles or Kings – kind of dull, you say?

Okay, change tack, read aloud as if you are narrating a Cecil B. DeMille production of epic biblical proportions! Make sure that your audience, real or imagined, can understand each word and that the transitions from action to description are clear. Suddenly it isn’t so dull! Try the same thing with Jane Austen – you’ll be amazed at how her works come to life!

Reading aloud is an art form and a connection to the historic past. Back in the days of limited literacy those who could read aloud did so that others would have a chance to hear whatever it was they were reading. It was the default mode of literacy for many centuries until fairly recently.

Try it and you’ll find that a simple activity like this is a fun trip to the historical past.


  1. And if you are really good at reading aloud there is a man (although to my knowledge he is the only one in the world) in london who gets PAID to read aloud to customers at some of the london hotels. Yes, He is paid to go to their hotel room and read to them. He said sometimes people want to be read to sleep, some people just want to relax and hear his voice. Apparently most people find his voice quite pleasing. The television show that was featuring him showed him reading aloud and I personally thought it was quite good. So here is a man in the world who has made a living out of doing this. Makes me wonder if there is a market out there for these things (I’ll go practice my reading voice now).


    1. That is a first – I have never come across a professional read-aloud-er! Makes sense though, people used to get paid to go on lecture tours around the U.S. and other countries. Interpretive readings were popular, too, as civic amusements.


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