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Reading Aloud in Britain Today

Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) began as two-year study of contemporary adult reading aloud practices, to find out whether, what, where, how and why adults read aloud, or listen to others.

Do you ever read out loud?

Shouting? Whispering? Chanting?

To one person, in a group or completely alone?

Much is written about reading aloud as a teaching or motivational tool - a means to an end - but not so much is written about reading aloud as an end in itself, an everyday adult practice. Anecdotal evidence suggests that adults do indeed read aloud for various purposes and across various life domains and yet these practices are rarely talked about.

We wanted to find out more.

The project

Reading Aloud in Britain Today - Microphone

RABiT aimed to expand what we all think of when we hear the word 'reading' by documenting and analysing contemporary adult reading aloud practices. We want to explore the diversity of reading practices (on and offline) that adults perform or experience in different communities, languages, contexts and phases of our lives. This was (and still is) part of a desire to better understand the role of reading in community life and the relationship between forms of reading and other cultural practices, such as speechmaking, story-telling or professions of faith.

Over the course of the funded project, we captured the reading aloud practices of hundreds of different adults as possible across Scotland, England and Wales. We reached people of all different ages, genders, ethnicities, faiths, cultural, educational and language backgrounds, in both urban and rural locations.

Timescale

RABiT ran from June 2017 until the end of May 2019.

Year one

Year one of the project involved data collection and analysis, using:

Year two

In year two we travelled around and spoke with different groups of people about what they think about the RABiT findings and reading aloud more broadly. We explored and shared the findings through:

  • four regional community events
  • an academic symposium
  • writing publications of different sorts
  • depositing interviews and audio recordings in the British Library Sound Archive, subject to permissions/agreement
  • four national and international conference presentations
Publications and blogs

Publications

Duncan, S., Freeman, M. (2019). Adults reading aloud: a survey of contemporary practices in Britain. British Journal of Educational Studies

Duncan S. (2019). Reading Aloud in Britain Today: an overview and implications. Research and Practice in Adult Literacies, 2018 Conference Edition. Volume 97/Spring 2019.

Duncan, S. (2018). Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT): an introduction. Word Matters: The Journal of the Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama, 68 (1), 19.

Duncan, S. (2018). Lend me your ears: Mass Observing contemporary adult reading aloud practices. Changing English, 1-16.

Blogs

What does it mean to read aloud--and why is it so important? On The Reading Agency blog

Events

RABiT academic symposium in London

Everyday reading: explorations of literacy and oracy, 17 November 2018

Regional community events

Conference presentations

Resources for discussion, reflection and next steps

Following on from the discussions held in the second year of the project, we have created 'Discussion, Reflection and Next Steps' resources. These are to read, share and discuss. We hope that they will spark reflections and actions of different sorts. 

Please email Sam on sam.duncan@ucl.ac.uk to share what you have done or thought about.

The team

RABiT was led by Sam Duncan, Senior Lecturer in Adult Education and Literacies, through an AHRC Early Careers Research Fellowship.

Sam was supported by her mentor, Dr Mark Freeman, Reader in Education and Social History.

Project partners

We were delighted to work with the support of our project partners:

Partners
  • The British Library
  • Learning and Work Institute
  • The Reading Agency
  • The Mass Observation Project

Acknowledgements 

Many thanks to these project friends who helped us navigate around Skye, and find people to interview and reading aloud practices to record.

Advisory group

We are very grateful to the RABiT Advisory Group for their invaluable guidance throughout the project and. we hope, beyond.

In the media 

Woman reading from above
Why we read out loud

Dr Sam Duncan discusses the motivations behind reading aloud and Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT).
Listen (from 28:30): BBC Radio Shetland - The Books Programme
18 March 2019