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
  • 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 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
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.


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


RABiT academic symposium in London

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

Regional community events

Conference presentations

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



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 constant and invaluable guidance.

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