Reading is usually a silent activity that takes place in the mind, but reading aloud has its benefits once you get past the unsettling sound of your own voice aping the “sounds” of your imagination. For one, you realise that knowing a word means more than knowing its definition. It means knowing its sound. Second, you realise that knowing a word’s sound means more than just being able to imagine it. It means opening your mouth and actually making it.
Therefore, getting to know words means looking them up and speaking them, which is itself only a form of politeness. After all, you wouldn’t say you know a person just because you’ve peeked through his bathroom window to watch him brush his teeth. (That’s creepy, stop it!) You don’t know him until you’ve spoken with him. Because you can’t speak with a word, you get to know a word not by speaking with it but by speaking it.
But just as social interaction has its awkward moments, so, too, does phonetic interaction:
Those bumbling few seconds when, having come upon a word you’ve seen a hundred times and whose definition you could recite without the slightest hiccup, you’ve no idea how to actually pronounce it.
(“I shake my fist at you, genteel!”)