This introductory chapter introduces the rationale, aims and structure of the book. It starts by asking whether adults today read out loud, noting that ‘reading’ in much of the world today signifies silent (and often individual) reading, while in the past it may have more often indicated something oral, as well as communal. This chapter then explores the purposes and value of creating a record of contemporary adult reading aloud practices, including for future scholars and to inform current literacy education policy and practice. It looks at ideas of oracy and literacy, including how ‘reading’ overlaps with other terms such as reciting, ‘learning by heart,’ proclamation, declamation and chanting. It ends with a brief explanation of the naming conventions and structure of the book. Part 1 examines the genesis, design, aims and findings of the AHRC-funded Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) research project, while Part 2 examines insights from this data along with a wider international literature.