Developing skills as a writer means first being a strong reader. Literacy is synchronous – it isn’t reading or writing in isolation, it’s a combination of reading, writing, speaking and listening, all of which form the fundamental blocks all successful and literate individuals need to make sense of the world around them.
While all subjects and curriculum strands are vital to individual development, many argue that literacy is a stand out in how we comprehend the world around us.
What does reading give you as a writer? So much! Here are just a few examples of why reading is incredibly important in the development of writing skills.
Children will be inspired by the exciting and engaging books they read. As a teacher, it is no surprise when a student finishes reading their favourite books about the wizardry world that their next piece of writing circles around the magical or fantasy genre. Reading gives them avenues and pathways to drive their writing and provide opportunities to shape their writing style.
Reading exposes us to an endless number of words – different slangs and sayings that describe scenes, settings and characters. They paint the picture in our heads as readers, words helping us to create our masterpieces and bring our imagination to life (on paper).
Think about words that great writers use – in education we call them ‘tier 2’ words. These are words that you know but may not use in your everyday vernacular. They are upgraded synonyms that make writing more engaging. An example of this would be using words such as ‘recalled’, ‘replied’, ‘screeched’ or ‘cried’, instead of the generic ‘said’. Next time you pick up your favourite book, think about these words that the author has used – imagine how boring ‘said’ would be if it was used every single time in the book! Other examples include common verbs, like ‘ran’ or ‘walked’ – these could be upgraded to ‘galloped’ or ‘trotted’. Reading exposes children to the use of these words that they can begin using in their writing.
In addition to enhancing vocabulary, reading exposes children to correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Every sentence is a model of a language convention and how to structure sentences and paragraphs. Teachers and parents need not look far for great examples of how to write a proper sentence: they are in every book your child reads! As they develop from emerging to proficient readers, the books they read become increasingly complex and provide them with innovative and unique structures they can use in their writing. Compare the language conventions of a book written in the early 1900s with one written today, and consider what they would teach a child or young person about social changes.
Every reader knows that reading can be an emotional rollercoaster as you live the journey of a favourite character in a thrilling story. A child’s favourite book is usually one where they identify with the characters and plot – they feel like it could be them! Exposure to literature gives children the example and impetus to experiment with emotive language and develop characters that readers can really cheer for…or villains so evil a reader will be hoping they never succeed!
Reading and writing are the two sides of the literacy coin. When reading you’re growing as a writer, and while writing you’re growing as a reader! Next time you pick up a book to read, try and think not only about the story, but also how the story was written. Ask yourself what writing style does this author have? What unique and interesting language does the author use? How does the author present information to me that makes it engaging? This will lead you on a path that links reading to writing and you’ll begin to incorporate these considerations into your writing. As a parent or teacher, start asking these questions to children to promote the connection between reading and writing.
Happy reading …and writing!