Making The Reading and Writing Connection

One goal of reading is comprehension. What good is reading without savoring the meaning ? Reading with no understanding is eating without tasting. But there is more to reading. Reading is a tributary of writing. Writing is not a closed system. Our reading experiences spill into our writing and give it contours. Every poem, article, or novel we digest changes our writing landscape. Reading great books change this landscape for the better.

The Bible is the Word of God. It should be the water of our reading diet. Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NIV) Reading and meditating on scripture is an encounter with the living God and changes us, as well as our writing. The urgency to speak about the truth of God becomes integrated into the style of our writing. Like diamonds on a ring, the Words of God adorn our writing.

I do not believe that reading other books is off limits. The apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” (Phillipians 4:8 NIV)

Laura Ingalls Wilder describes God’s world in a language that lingers in the imagination and provokes one’s soul toward a richer admiration of God as creator. She writes in Little House in the Big Woods, “In the Big Woods the snow was beginning to thaw. Bits of it dropped from the branches of the trees and made little holes in the softening snowbanks below. At noon all the big icicles along the caves of the little house quivered and sparkled in the sunshine, and drops of water hung trembling at their tips.”

C.S. Lewis’s The Lion ,the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a superb work of fiction. It illustrates God’s nature through the redemptive love of the lion Aslan. The story is a timeless parable pointing readers to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

These stories can be told and re-told to enhance writing. Do not draw a line between reading and writing class. Interlace the two. Reading is training for writing. Well crafted stories we encounter are quilts with integrate and beautiful designs. An author’s word choice, sentence construction, and plot development are color fibers of the design. Wise instructors spend time studying and integrating portions of these literary recipes into their own works.

Author Audrey Wood writes, ” Here’s a tip. Study your favorite author. If you want to understand how an author you admire works with words, choose a section from her or his book and write it out. The very process of writing down another author’s words will teach you a lot about style and word crafting.”

Copying and even memorizing sentences from great writing is one of the characteristics of Classical Education. Reading The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education inspired me to have our children copy sentences from great works of literature. Lynette Tudland writes, “”By this time, your child is a fairly fluent reader. You can now hand your student a great piece of literature and have him copy an entire passage! Do this every single day for 20 to 30 minutes and you will be amazed at the improvement in his writing mechanics in just a few months!”

The experience can be more meaningful when students reflect on and discuss qualities of a sentence or paragraph. Some questions to incite discussion are:

– How many and what kind of nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs are used?
– What kind of pronouns are used? Why are they used?
– How is punctuation used in the sentence?
– Is it a main idea sentence or a detail? How do you know?
– What clue does this idea offer about the overall purpose of the writer?
– Close your eyes. What do you visualize as I read this sentence?
– What kind of mood is the author trying to create?
– How does this sentence help us understand the genre of writing?

The goal of copying and studying others’ works is to help writers become more themselves, not less. Great artists study the masters not to imitate, but to spur on the genius in themselves.

As much as reading sharpens writing ability, writing sharpens reading ability. Children need to write for pure pleasure. Free writing leaves a snapshot of what one knows about language and what we value as readers. Writing is a mirror of what we internalize when reading. If I recognize a weakness in my writing, it usually is a reading weakness as well. If I place periods incorrectly, I may not understand when ideas shift during reading. I may have great mechanics, but shallow characters. I may need to read about interesting characters. Making these discoveries in writing helps to prioritize what areas to concentrate on when reading.

Getting in the habit of allowing peers and mentors to listen and discuss writing can bring us into more complete contact with the peaks and valleys of our writing. I recommend a 1:3 rule, which means that for every one weakness someone shares about our writing, they share 3 strengths.

Free writing is self-discovery. Writing gives visibility to our longings and interests. I have discovered through the writing process a passion for teaching children. Christian Olympian Eric Liddell said, “when I run I feel his (God’s) pleasure.” I feel God’s pleasure when I write something that conveys that a child is an image bearer of a beautiful and majestic God.

Writing helps answer the question, “What do your children love to do that brings pleasure to God?” Take notice of what they say through their writing and incorporate these unique interests in what you teach. This will create in them a stronger and more natural alliance with reading.

Reading and writing have an intimate relationship. Reading provides unlimited fuel for our imagination as writers. Writing can give insight into our identities as readers. If you have partitioned these two activities, take time to build a gate so that you and your children can traverse between the two and reap the rich benefits each has to offer the other.

Randy Saller Contact Information

About the Author

My name is Randy Saller. I am a special education teacher at Gavin Central in Lake Villa, Illinois. I have a BA in Special Education and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction. I have been married to Amy Jo for the last 18 years. God has blessed us with three wonderful children- Jonah, Gilbert, and Sadie. Some of my interests include spending time with family, running, fishing, and writing. I have written for Turtle Magazine, Chicago Parent, and The Old Schoolhouse. My wife and I are Christians with a passion for homeschooling and family discipleship. Two of My favorite verses are: He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers..... (Malachi 4:6). I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (1 John 3-4). Amy and I believe that there is no more important ministry than the family ministry. It is our passion to help parents understand the importance of their role in helping their children understand and know God. Although parents will always be imperfect, God has chosen the broken vessel of parenting to have the most influential role (humanly speaking) in the spiritual life of a child. I invite you to explore some of the free resources on this website.

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