Activity of the Week: Reading Aloud

You're never too old to love a good story.
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Reading out loud to your loved one is a wonderful way to pass time while providing an easy, mini cognitive workout (for both of you!). Choose a favorite classic, poetry, inspirational readings, or even the day's newspaper.

What you'll need:

Reading material, good light, and comfortable seating. Optional: hot chocolate, cookies, and lap blankets.

Why it's great:

  • Reading aloud is mentally stimulating, allowing both the reader and listener to create mental pictures while encouraging critical thinking skills ("What will happen next?").

  • You can distract someone from pain, discomfort, or agitation.

  • Reader and listener relax and bond in a low-key way.

  • Reading can provide an ever-ready conversation starter. ("When did you read this book before? Who's your favorite character?")

  • It's economical -- inexpensive reading material is everywhere.

  • It's a soothing way to wind down at the end of the day. Try reading aloud as a bedtime ritual, especially if your loved one is prone to early-evening agitation.

How to do it:

  • Select your reading materials: Ask your loved one about favorite books or movies, check his or her bookshelves, borrow from a friend, or visit the library together. Think about the person's interests (sports? cooking?) or background (such as a book set in his or her hometown or favorite travel destination). Some books that work well: Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Seabiscuit, Into Thin Air, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.

  • Don't overlook poetry, limericks, or plays. Our brains like the cadence of words that rhyme and phrases that have rhythm.

  • Note that someone with dementia might appreciate simpler plots and books with images, or even (later in the moderate or early-severe stages) children's stories; you might need to experiment to find out what sparks interest and what offends.

  • Take turns if your loved one can still read and likes to do so. (Consider large-print books, if needed.)

  • Don't be shy; use voices! It's not only fun but helps direct attention better if you can sound like a wicked witch, a tiny fairy, or a booming judge.

  • Don't worry about skipping over parts that seem less engaging or rereading passages that the listener seems to spark to.

  • Take your book with you to the doctor's office or hospital.

  • Try including reading aloud at family events, such as holiday gatherings or reunions.

  • Branch out from reading: Some people like audiobooks. Or you may enjoy watching a movie version of a book after you read it, then talking about what each of you likes and dislikes about the different versions.