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Exploring the connection between reading and writing

I don’t know about you guys, but if I don’t wake up a while before my youngest child and read something -- usually online newspapers, magazines, and whatever book(s) I am teaching -- my day just doesn’t flow. I need that time to prepare my mind, and my brain needs that nourishment. Reading for me is like a literacy multivitamin. It’s interesting, because reading early in the morning naturally instills a level of authenticity when it comes to my work.

As a tutor of many humanities-based subjects -- where writing is a speciality -- parents often come to me in a distressed state, especially two months before state testing. (We call it STAAR in Texas.) Many have the same or similar questions: “How can I help my child become a better writer?” or “I read your article in the magazine. How did you learn to write?” My standard answer: I READ!!! The comments that follow typically center on the “my child just doesn’t like reading” notion. Resisting my urge to reply with, “Who’s the parent? Make them read!” (Ooops, did I just say that??), I seize on the opportunity to share a little advice.

Look, I get it. Not everyone loves reading, but it is paramount that we encourage and facilitate for children a positive relationship with reading. The National Council of Teachers of English offers research that shows the connection between reading and writing including an article published by Psychreg It cites comments from Steve Graham, a renowned leader on the subject of educational psychology of writing and Warner Professor in the Division of Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University, who states, “As students become skilled readers, they notice more than just the content of the text. Readers potentially observe sentence and paragraph structures, variations in spacing, and recurring themes.” Simply put, it is the classic example of “garbage in -- garbage out.” If we feed our minds empty foods, they will produce emptiness; however, when we feed our minds quality content, we increase our chances of producing quality content -- especially when we write!

If you have a reluctant reader, tap into the subject(s) they love, and look for books that relate to that topic. For example, I have several students who absolutely love math and science but profess to loathe reading. In several of those cases, I directed them to the story of Katherine Johnson. More often than not, they became so enthralled in the story of a woman who loved numbers, who overcame obstacles, and who went on to achieve amazing accomplishments with NASA. The students forgot how much they “loathed” reading. From there, we had deep discussions about many themes surrounding Katherine’s story, and then we wrote about them. Thus, reading allowed those reluctant readers to now think critically about a topic they loved and enjoyed, which made it far less painful to write about the topic.

Who can think of the next objection? You guessed it: time. Often parents say, “I just don’t have time to take my kid to the bookstore.” or “My kid doesn’t check out good books on their own, and I don’t have time to take them to the library.” This is when I resist my urge to say, “We make time for things we really want to do,” (Ooops, did I just speak my mind again??), and instead advise parents to think digitally. Most have access to a computer or tablet. Using electronics, today we can access countless titles via Amazon and other platforms. My daughter loves reading books via epic!. This digital library was a lifesaver when she and I were sick for more than a month. She had run out of Nancy Drew and Magic Tree House books in our house, but I still found her in bed with a tablet, scrolling through to find interesting books. Plus, with more than 40,000 titles, it makes choosing a bedtime story a lot easier! I will say that at only 8 years of age, she’s showing the signs of becoming a really good writer!

For those still fighting the need to read, I encourage them to think of reading like exercise. Personal trainers often tell those who loathe workouts to at least start by committing to exercise 20 to 30 minutes per day for 4 to 5 days per week. Well, think of reading as exercise for the brain. Help your child incorporate into their lives 20 to 30 minutes of reading per day, for at least 4 to 5 days per week, and watch out for the difference. I even challenge you to use this time to read with your child; it makes for wonderful bonding time. (Whether they admit it or not, children of all ages love when adults read to them!) Not only do I predict a better attitude towards reading, but over time I predict an improvement in your child’s writing. So go ahead, my dear. DROP EVERYTHING AND READ!!!

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