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.
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.
RABiT ran 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
- 49 semi-structured interviews and
- 44 audio recordings of people reading aloud
- 91 recordings in the British Library Sound Archive, shelfmark C1765
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
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.
RABiT academic symposium in London
Regional community events
- Reading aloud in Britain today - what does this mean for adult learners? 19 December 2018, Pontypool, Wales.
- So what does this all mean? RABiT at the Glasgow Women's Library. 24 January 2019, Glasgow, Scotland.
- Oral literacies: Poetry, performance and the written. 21 February 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Reading aloud: implications of the RABiT project for teachers. 5 March 2019, Nottingham, England.
- ‘Widening the Ownership of the Word? - When adults read aloud' presentation at the 11th ESREA BGL-ALC Conference in Pécs, 12-15 June 2019
- 'Lend Me Your Ears: when adults read aloud instead of in silence' at the European Basic Skills Network (EBSN) Annual Conference, Tallinn, June 2019
- 'Reading Aloud Today: and what this could mean for the teaching of reading, presentation' at the Ethiopian English Language Teachers Association/Ethiopian English Language Professionals’ Association, 25th May 2019, Addis Ababa
- Research keynote: 'Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT): Lessons for Policy and Practice' at the English, Maths and ESOL Annual Conference, Learning and Work Institute, 14 November 2018
- 'Mass observing adult reading aloud: finding a 'dual vision' of literacy today.' at the Ethnography with a Twist conference, 12–14 February 2019, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to share what you have done or thought about.
- RABiT discussion and next steps: poetry focus (PDF)
- RABiT discussion and next steps for women library users, everyone and anyone (PDF)
- RABiT discussion and next steps for teachers and trainee teachers (PDF)
- RABiT discussion and next steps for prison reading groups (PDF)
- RABiT discussion and next steps for adult learners and adult educators (PDF)
- Reading Agency Reading Ahead RABiT Resource (PDF)
- 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:
- The British Library
- Learning and Work Institute
- The Reading Agency
- The Mass Observation Project
Many thanks to these project friends who helped us navigate around Skye, and find people to interview and reading aloud practices to record.
- Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches: a collaborative project which has been set up to preserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online several thousand hours of Gaelic and Scots recordings.
- Island Voices - Guthan nan Eilean: slices of life and work in the 21st century Hebrides - for language learners, and anyone else.
- Advisory group
We are very grateful to the RABiT Advisory Group for their invaluable guidance throughout the project and. we hope, beyond.
- Dr Ann Swinney, Discipline Lead, Community Learning and Development, University of Dundee
- Debbie Hicks, Creative Director, Reading Agency
- Dr Farid Panjwani, Director, Centre for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education, UCL Institute of Education
- Professor Greg Brooks, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Sheffield
- Jane Mace, Practitioner, Trainer and Author in Adult Literacy Education since the 1970s
- Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator for Spoken English at the British Library
- Kirsty Pattrick, Mass Observation Archive Officer
- Lesley Allen, South-East London, Co-Ordinator of the Diamond Club, Holy Cross Parish, Catford and Stockwell Good Neighbours, Oval
- Dr Maxine Burton, Researcher and Writer on Adult Literacy, Linguistics and History of Education
- Professor Mike Baynham, Emeritus Professor of TESOL, School of Education, University of Leeds
- Sarah Turvey, Principal Lecturer in English Literature, University of Roehampton and Director, Prison Reading Groups (PRG)
In the media
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