Read to Get Ready to Write

3 March 2011


Image by FnJBnN

Word count: 580

Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes

Reading is the best way to develop writing ‘muscle’. It provides writing models from which we learn the craft – from authors whose words and phrases teach us style and vocabulary and grammar.


Parents prepare their children for what’s called ‘reading readiness’ by reading to them regularly. Your kids pick up on the mechanics of words in print – top to bottom, left to right – as you point to the words. They then learn the structure of a story and the ways to combine words in sentences.


At about the age of three or four, after being read to for several years, they can’t wait to learn how to read on their own!


A child shall lead them

When our son was that age, he started picking out the same book for us to read, day after day, for what seemed like months. Both my husband and I got really tired of reading Are You My Mother? – but our son didn’t care.


One day he said, ‘I’ll read it today, Mom.’


‘Okay, go ahead,’ I replied. (Of course, by that time he had memorized the entire book.)


He then ‘read’ to me, pointing to the words as he recited them.


It didn’t matter that he couldn’t recognize letters and words. That’s what reading readiness is all about. We were both very proud that day!


From ‘reader’ to ‘writer’

After learning to ‘read’, it wasn’t long before our son became a ‘writer’. He would sit in my lap at the computer and dictate stories for me to type.


Turns out that some (most?) of those stories were ones he had heard – and were not actually his own.


It didn’t matter that the stories weren’t really his. That’s what writing readiness is all about.


He would also copy sentences from books that he liked to read. It was more like drawing, actually. His print was as small as the typeface, and it almost looked like photocopies of the pages.


Writing models

We may create our own stories and characters and scenes, but we first learn to write by copying other authors’ phrases and descriptive words.


It doesn’t matter that the words aren’t yours. Go ahead and copy the style. (Just be careful not to plagiarize!)


Even if you don’t use other writers’ exact words, just writing them down will help to imprint the style, vocabulary and grammar in your brain, just as our son learned how to write by copying pages from books.


Read what you love

Learning happens when you’re engaged with the material. So read books and magazines and websites on subjects that you love.


Read for 15-20 minutes a day, and you’ll be able to get through 20 or more books in a year. Imagine how much writing muscle you can build from that!


What I’m reading now

I’m in the middle of a book called This Is Your Mind on Music. It’s quite technical – not an easy read. But it’s on a subject that fascinates me: how brains develop. Speaking of which, John Medina, the author of Brain Rules has just released a new book, Brain Rules for Baby, on how parents can nurture the development of their children’s brains.


I regularly read writing blogs and science magazines and websites. Recently I began reading books and websites on vegetable gardening (to prepare for one of the things I plan to do after retiring).


What about you?

What are you reading? Share it with us and let us know what you recommend.

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