Reading: Time Well Spent

Feb 09, 2018 | Posted by Nathan King


We have so little time to spend. The hustle and bustle of teaching a multiplicity of subjects to students takes long hours to accomplish. If educators were asked what their goals were for their students, many would say that they wanted to produce excellent thinkers, communicators, and even leaders. But in the midst of navigating so many tangled threads in our educational endeavors, we sometimes wonder if there is a simpler way. Is there a tool that is both simple and useful to help students become confident, competent communicators and thinkers? Reading out loud to students is part of that solution. While most educators would agree that reading aloud is a valuable part of education, is it worth the sacrifice to spend more time reading aloud rather than doing other subjects?

Some of the most profound reasons to encourage reading aloud involve the training of a student’s mental faculties. The acts of reading and listening require a student to focus on a particular stream of thought for an extended period of time. By doing so, listening becomes a fertile practice ground for developing the student’s skill of focus. Because literature places concepts within a larger context, student retention and comprehension of ideas is fostered, improving memory. In the same way, the structure of content presentation or the development of an argument in a written work influences and encourages thoughtful structure and presentation in the listener’s own thinking. In short, reading to students trains their brains for learning and communicating.

Reading out loud not only trains the brain, it also fills the mind with content that is worthy of expression. Because all ideas are inherently based on rearrangements or permutations of other ideas, exposure to new concepts allows students to pose better questions. Better questions lead to deeper, more innovative thinking. In the midst of listening, students may be presented with unfamiliar vocabulary in meaningful contexts or new, stylish grammatical structures, stretching the students’ own linguistic repertoire. Students can then draw from these novel words and language patterns to communicate their own ideas. Reading out loud to students in copious quantities maximizes this effect! The ancient Greeks referred to filling their mental space with all that is good and right and worthy of expression as “furnishing the mind,” and reading aloud to students certainly accomplishes this objective. A communicator who has a firm grasp on the tools at his disposal can wield both pen and lectern with greater, more influential effect.

Finally, reading in general is a powerful source for influence. What a reader reads can shape how he looks at the world. As the late speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones quipped, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” The right ideas in a student’s mind influence what he thinks about and how he thinks about it. In fact, by merely choosing the right books for students to consume, educators are exerting a powerful tool to influence the next generation! Furthermore, because reading excellent material exposes students to excellent ideas, students can gain insights and depth of understanding that helps them to eventually influence others. Charlie Jones also coined the phrase “leaders are readers,” and for good reason. Reading thus becomes both a method of current instruction for students and a launching ground for powerful expression of ideas in the future. Educators can maximize their influence on students by reading out loud to students and then using the text as a forum for conversation afterwards, further cementing a book’s ideas in their students’ consciousness.

Reading out loud to students trains their minds, furnishes them with thoughts worthy of expression, and becomes a staging ground for influencing students’ thought processes so that they use their language wisely. Are these not several goals of an education? Andrew Pudewa has suggested for many years that it would be no bad thing to take a general break from much of our curriculum for a year and instead spend time reading aloud to our students. Would we not, after the year was over, say to ourselves it was time well spent?


Nathan King, the customer marketing manager for IEW, grew up as the son of a pastor in Wichita, Kansas. Following his graduation from Manhattan Christian College and Kansas State University with a degree in secondary education in history, he worked for thirteen years as a youth pastor in his hometown. Since he began working for IEW, Nathan has enjoyed both the marketing and customer service sides of his position. Nathan and his wife of thirteen years, Melissa, homeschool their four children, but it is his amazing wife that does the lion’s share of this vital mission!

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