For the elderly who loved to read all their lives, listening to someone read to them can bring profound comfort and joy. Why not start a Read-Aloud Readers Group activity at your facility; a Book Club with a difference! Read-aloud activities are an intervention well worth pursuing.
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Reading aloud is an activity that most people are familiar with. Reading storybooks to children and grandchildren is a time for bonding, warmth and love. However reading aloud is not only for children; adults enjoy it too.

For the elderly who loved to read all their lives, listening to someone read to them can bring profound comfort and joy. Sometimes read-aloud activities are lacking in nursing homes and assisted living facilities - however this can easily be changed.

Why not start a Read-Aloud Readers Group activity at your facility; a Book Club with a difference! Read-aloud activities are an intervention well worth pursuing.

The Benefits of Reading-Aloud to the Elderly

There are many different reasons why the elderly may give up reading. Common barriers include poor vision, lack of strength to hold up a book, tremors, dementia, and other medical reasons.

Giving up reading does not mean that they have lost interest in books, magazines, and newspapers however. In fact, losing the ability to read often leaves people feeling withdrawn, sad and isolated.

Shared group reading can improve quality of life and wellbeing.
It may also:

  • Stimulate memories and creativity
  • Improve mood and concentration
  • Increase social interaction

Reading Aloud for Families

Reading-aloud activities should also be suggested to families of clients who may at times run out of topics of conversation when visiting loved-ones. Reading-aloud is an intimate shared activity that promote feelings of closeness and attachment.

How to Find Suitable Reading Material

Books chosen for read-aloud activities should be mainly literature-based, however other types of reading material is also necessary to attend to individual tastes.

Ask clients what type of stories, news, and poems they enjoyed reading and make a plan for the group session.

For clients who were never interested in reading books, see if you can spark their interest with books about hobbies, politics, current news, religion or cooking.

Suggested reading material:

  • Poems – known and unknown poems
  • Newspapers columns – Gossip & Gardening columns for example
  • Short Stories – Covering a range to topics; Humour, Mysteries, Fables
  • Historical tales
  • Biographies – Presidents, scientists and other famous people
  • Religious passages – Bible, Quran
  • Personal letters and Celebration cards
  • Catalogues – Clothes, furniture, pets
  • Plays – Hamlet, Silas Marner, A Streetcar Named Desire
  • TV Programs – Choose what to watch in the coming week
  • Travel Brochures – Find places that clients visited
  • Magazines – Specialty magazines: boats, fishing, motor-houses
  • Comics – Borrow old style comics from libraries
  • Recipe books – Very popular with some clients

Read-Aloud Books for Dementia Care

There are books available that have been written specifically for dementia care. One of them is “Loving Voice: A Caregiver’s Book of Read-Aloud Stories for the Elderly” compiled by Carolyn Banks and Janice Rizzo. This book can be purchased online from Amazon:.

By C. Banks Loving Voice II: A Caregiver's Book of More Read-Aloud Stories for the Elderly (1st First Edition) [Paperback]

Types of Reading Activities for Elders

Remind clients that it is important to have fun! Having fun is a good source of relaxation and stimulation. The goal of read-aloud activities is for clients to enjoy themselves.

Audience participation Stories

An audience participation story engages the audience in the story. It is a fun activity that promotes focus and creativity. Clients may repeat a word or phrase throughout the story: sing, gesture, or act. (Example supplied below.)

Reading and Reminiscing

Read storybooks favourites that clients read as children such as:

  • The Faraway Tree
  • Treasure Island
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • The Hidden Staircase
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • and many many more

Read interesting and funny passages from these stories and talk about the book and the era in which it was written.

Open-Ended stories

Open-ended stories provide a creative way to engage clients in a story. Read a short story where the ending in inconclusive or incomplete. Clients may speculate how the story can continue, or how the problem can be solved. Write client answers on a white board and read them out at the end of the activity. (Example supplied below).

Chapter books

Chapter books are for clients who can reasonably follow the stories. Just recap the plot at the beginning of every session and proceed with the next chapter. Clients may enjoy authors such as:

  • Raymond Chandler
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Anton Chekhov
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Roald Dahl
  • and many others

5 Attributes of a Good Reader

Activity Coordinators may delegate reading-aloud activities to a willing volunteer after some training and observation. It is important to find someone willing to go to the trouble to prepare for the task.

Both intonation and pitch can considerably influence how a story is received and comprehended. Here are some strategies that can make reading-aloud more effective.


Read the story several times beforehand, become familiar with it. Practice the rhythm you intend to use; pauses and tone.

Practice Mindfulness

Being present while reading is very important. Clients will lose interest if they perceive you are indifferent to the story or running on autopilot.


Intonation is key to reading aloud. Read with your voice as well as your eyes - express emotion. Make the most of sentence structures, commas and interrogation marks.


Pitch is important especially when reading to clients that may have hearing deficits. Make sure you read loudly and clearly.


Adding pauses for emphasis is important to transport clients, momentarily, to the author’s world portrayed in the book.


Observe if clients talk about the session amongst each other or with relatives. Keep note of the stories that attracted the most interest to read to others.

Showing interest may mean a smile, a gesture, or a calm state of being during the session. Document findings.

Read-aloud Stories to get started with

Open-ended Story

Audience Participation Story

Short Story: The Runaway Train

We'd love to hear your feedback!

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Comments   Post a Comment

Sarina 9th Jul 2024 Leisure and Wellness Coordinator
Please print some more, my residents enjoyed the reading aloud participation stories.
Rochelle Noble 20th Aug 2023
I have an old set of My Book House, collection of children's short stories, fables, poems, etc. Vol. 6,7,8 seem to have stories that would be interesting to read, but written for children. Would that be appropriate or appealing for my skilled care residents?
Susan 22nd Aug 2023 Activity Director
Hi Rochelle
That depends on what group of residents you are reading to
Are the stories interactive
Is that subject matter interesting and add the residents interested in it?
To be on the safe side any one who is in the group, needs a note that they enjoy these stories
Leah 21st Apr 2021 Activity Director
I read American Girl Molly to my residents. They enjoy listening to her life during WWII.
Janet Morel 19th Aug 2018

I read at a local retirement home. My sweeties,as I like to call them are all over 90 and are as sharp as tacks!They give me a run for my money (: Please keep posting reading suggestions, I struggle to find, short, but lively reads that will engage them and not insult their intelligence. They particularly like , olden day reminiscing stories.
Michael McKinnon 10th Jun 2018
I've been reading weekly at a long-term care residence in our small town for over a year. James Herriot's books have been a real hit - he's the English vet who practiced in Yorkshire, and wrote about the life of the country vet in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The stories are mostly short and sweet, often funny. There is a fair amount of graphic vet talk, but nobody seemed to mind...
I am going to try Erma Bombeck next....
Talita 11th Jun 2018
Thank you very much for sharing this with us Michael, this is exactly the style of short stories people are after!
Sue 9th May 2017
I have been reading Little House on the Prairie as a late afternoon activity. The residents seem to enjoy hearing about the activities of rustic life and enjoy the story from the perspective of a little girl. They gather all around me. Such fun
Talita 15th May 2017
This sounds lovely Sue. Thanks for sharing this idea.
JILL 13th Feb 2017 activity coordinator
Terrific success especially the short stories and poems
Please print more of these as everyone enjoyed them so much

Many thanks
Talita 13th Feb 2017
Thanks Jill. We have had a number of requests for more short stories and we are working on it. The Scout website that Sharon shared with us also has a number of read-aloud stories you may enjoy: Thanks so much for your feedback!
Lesley Jane 19th Jan 2017 Activities Coordinator
Thank you very much for this idea. My residents are all in their nineties and we read a humerous addition of The Wizard of Oz. Two of the residents enjoyed reading aloud. I have asked my residents what book they would like to read next. They have chosen Treasure Island and I am awaiting on the delivery of a large print addition. We are going to do this activity a couple of times a week for short periods of time to see if they are still enjoying.
Solange 19th Jan 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi Lesley Ann, thank you for the feedback, it is much appreciated.
Jennifer 27th Oct 2016 Therapeutic Recreation
I am a therapist with the geriatric population at a state mental hospital. This is made up of dementia patients as well as those with other illnesses. Reading to them is very relaxing to them as well as me. I have a large collection of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I have found the stories very well taken by the patients and the stories are not long. There is a very large collection (100+) books to choose from. I highly recommend them!
Solange 28th Oct 2016 Diversional Therapist
Hi Jennifer, thanks for sharing.
Kath 2nd Nov 2016 Lifestyle Coordinator
Thank you Jennifer.
Sandy 18th Jul 2020 Outreach Librarian
I have also had success with Chicken Soup books at a senior day car facility. I am going to try recording some Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, and James Herriot for our You Tube channel, since we are not doing in-person reading right now due to Covid.

I may try some themed stories such as the Lincoln's beard story for President's Day or Armistice Poems for Veteran's Day.
Julie 4th Oct 2016 Diversional Therapist
Hi Kath. I am just reading short stories like, Nurses of the outback. I just finished one that Slim Dusty's, wife Anne Kirkpatrick wrote ( I think that's her name). It was the story behind some of the songs she had written. I really enjoyed it too. We just have Lino floors. I read quite loudly for those who have trouble hearing. One lady sits right next to me as she loves the stories the most but has the most trouble hearing. Oh, and always have a bottle of water nearby.......dry throat.
Kath 14th Oct 2016 Lifestyle Coordinator
Thanks Julie :D
Bronwyn 5th Jan 2017 Support Worker/RAO
Anne Kirkpatrick is Slim Dusty's daughter
karen 4th Oct 2016 Activities Officer
I love reading aloud to my residents, perhaps being an former teacher has helped. They enjoy the funny "Odd Spot" in our local paper and always want to comment. Cheers and keep up the good work- Golden Carers!
Talita 4th Oct 2016
Thanks for your feedback Karen, much appreciated!
yasmin 2nd Oct 2016 Recreational therapist
Nice work everyone. Keep up the good work/.
Talita 3rd Oct 2016
Thanks Yasmin : )
Julie 24th Sep 2016 Diversional Therapist
I just recently started work at a DT. I do the sundowner shift in a secure dementia unit and after dinner decided to start reading to the residents. I pull all the chairs in close so that they can hear me better and I'll read for up to 1.5 hrs. They all sit and listen and very few wander. i choose short stories to keep their attention. It's really enjoyable not just for them but me too.
Talita 25th Sep 2016
Oh Julie what a wonderful outcome, so lovely to hear. That is quite amazing that you can engage them so effectively for such a length of time.
Kath 27th Sep 2016 Lifestyle Coordinator
Julie that's wonderful to hear, you must have a soothing and interesting voice.
Does your facility have carpet/ good acoustics for reading?
Also, I'd love some ideas of the short stories you are reading - thank you for sharing :D
Lynn 20th Sep 2016
I worked at a Day Centre where each Friday a group of clients would gather in the Libarary, they chose the book which was to be read and they met every Friday afternoon to listen to someone reading that book, the last one I read with them was "The Potato Factory" they loved it... some of the clients had a go at reading it out aloud too....
Talita 21st Sep 2016
How lovely Lynn. Thanks for sharing.
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