Institute of Education


Reading Aloud in Britain Today

Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) is a two-year study of contemporary adult reading aloud practices. We want 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 want to find out more.

The project

Reading Aloud in Britain Today - Microphone

RABiT aims 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 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.

We want to capture the reading aloud practices of as many different adults as possible across Scotland, England and Wales. We hope to reach people of all different ages, genders, ethnicities, faiths, cultural, educational and language backgrounds, in both urban and rural locations.


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

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

  • a Mass Observation directive
  • a questionnaire completed by over 600 adults across Scotland, Wales and England
  • 55 semi-structured interviews and
  • 44 audio recordings of people reading aloud

In year two we will explore and share 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

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


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

The team

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

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

Project partners

We are delighted to be working with our project partners, without whose support RABiT would not be happening.

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

RABit Project Partners
Advisory group

We are very grateful to the RABiT Advisory Group for their constant and invaluable guidance.