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Our Reading Lives

Why I Read Out Loud To My Dog

Mara Franzen

Staff Writer

Mara (They/Them) has accidentally on purpose made their entire life about books and stories. Mara graduated with a B.A in creative writing and theatre and is halfway through an MFA in Creative writing. In addition to writing for Book Riot, Mara also has written for The Independent Book Review, Wargamer, and The Other Half, to name a few. They also work as a fiction editor with The Minison Project. Nearly all of their published articles can be found here.

If you live with an animal in your house, chances are you talk to it. There’s something about just being able to talk out loud to something that will listen to you that’s so comforting. It doesn’t matter that they can’t respond with words (unless you happen to have a parrot or a magical creature for a pet). Conversing with your pet isn’t about actually having a conversation, it’s just about living in a shared space, and acknowledging them.

But what about reading? I mean we all know that we talk to our animals whether or not we go about admitting that on the internet, but do you read to your pets? Have you tried it? I have, and I do, and it’s become one of my favorite parts of my day.

There is something so special about putting aside time to sit and read to someone or something. I loved being read to as a kid, and so it’s a delight to pass on the favor as an adult, even if who I’m reading to is just my rambunctious Labrador. It became a little ritual in our life, and I’m so grateful for it.

How It Started

As you can probably tell based on me writing these words, I write for a living. This also means I’m constantly editing, rewriting, and perfecting my work. Often when I’m in the process of editing something I’ve written, I read it out loud to help me make sure it all sounds good, and to help catch mistakes.

One day I was reading a piece out loud and I noticed my dog, Fig, was staring at me very intently. I didn’t think much of it and kept on reading. Later that day when I was editing a second piece and was reading out old again, I saw Fig looking at me intently. She made eye contact and wagged her tail as if to say “don’t stop now!” So I kept going and she seemed to love it.

Why I Do It on Purpose

Apart from the joy Fig gets from listening to me read to her, reading to her also helped me find the motivation to edit. It became a fun little thing rather than a part of my job.

Soon I expanded beyond that and started reading to her while reading myself. I don’t read to her all the time, as reading like that tends to take longer than reading in your head, but I do read to her often. I started to appreciate what I did read to her more and more. Reading out loud helped me understand the feel of the language used in a much different way than reading or listening to a book.

As a grad student studying writing, it helped me understand what I love about reading by forcing me to look at the language used in an entirely new context. I began to appreciate sentence structure and dialogue in a new way, which has only helped me further develop my own writing style, especially when it comes to fiction.

What I Read

I’ve found that I enjoy rereading books to my dog. I don’t know why this is the case, I just know that it’s what I choose most when reading to Fig. Part of it, I believe, is that I don’t have to focus on the plot because I already know it. I get to lose myself in the sound of the words, and the feeling of my buddy sitting next to me.

She often falls asleep while I read. This is great because she’s a very high-energy dog who I’m convinced will not grow out of the puppy stage. Because of this, I also tend to pick things with short chapters. I can read quickly, take a short break, and then get back to whatever I need to do. It’s a delightful way to break up my day and gives me an excuse to reread instead of working on my ever-growing TBR.

At the End of the Day

But the real reason why I read out loud to my dog is simple. I love reading, and I love my dog. It’s an excuse to snuggle up with her and read a great book. And she loves it, too. I don’t really think I need any reasons beyond that.

If you have a pet, I highly encourage you to try reading out loud to them. See if you like it! And if you do, maybe consider adding it to your routine. Who knows? You might end up reading way more because of it!