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Benefits of reading

by John Goodman and Peter Boyce

It’s been said that if we were all to read aloud to someone each day, the world would be a better place.

We already know about the importance of reading to children, yet there is very little reading aloud these days among adults. And yet reading aloud is a perfect pastime especially for older people. Reading or listening to the written word in the company of others, and perhaps even discussing what you have heard, is an exhilarating activity, allowing individuals to find meaning together and to make connections.

And there are so many local authors in Barbados writing about local subjects that it can stir up wonderful memories to share and enjoy.

The mutual joy and pleasure of reading aloud and being read to cannot be overestimated. It might be to someone you love – to your husband or wife; a sick parent or child; an elderly relative, or to someone who finds it hard to concentrate for long; someone who finds reading difficult, or just simply someone who has never been given the chance to enjoy the pleasure of being read to.

Many older people can no longer read books. Some will pick up a newspaper or magazine, look at the pictures and read a few headlines, but perhaps because of failing eyesight, reading for any length of time can be too tiring for them.

The benefits of reading aloud to adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has also been found to be tremendously valuable, not least because it can stimulate long term memory and imagination. A good example includes that of visitors to a care home who were told not to sit next to a particular resident, as they were warned she would be likely to strike out at them.

But a member of one of the volunteer reading groups decided to sit near the woman and said to her: “I’m just going to read this poem. If you don’t like it that’s fine and I will go away.” The reader noticed that as she read the poem, the woman relaxed back in her chair, went very quiet, and at the end she said, straight away: “Read me another!”

Many of us have read stories to our children and grandchildren, so let us become more aware of the joys of reading aloud to the elderly people in our lives, as great comfort is derived from being read to at any age. And remember, the pleasure is not only felt by those being read to, but also by you, the reader.

Besides novels, there is a huge range of books covering specific topics or hobbies and many of these have wonderful illustrations and photographs which you can share with the person to whom you are reading. Apart from the obvious enjoyment of reading aloud, this activity will be stimulating and pleasing, both of which are essential to the well-being of the elderly. It also alleviates boredom which is a common problem with older people which can, and often does, spiral into depression.

So why not start this weekend by picking up a book or a magazine and reading aloud to an elderly friend or relative. You might even consider starting a book group with a few of your friends.

* Email us at with your experiences and we will share them with our listeners.

* Join Michael Goodman & Peter Boyce on Bajan Living every Monday, 2-3 p.m., on 100.7 QFM Barbados or online at Find us on Facebook or email us at

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