When Reading Is About Writing… and writing is about reading

Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that.” That’s okay advice for people who want to write. Writing is definitely about reading. As one who loves to do both I could probably have a lot of fun with this–including wondering how many writers love to read what they have written.

Many folks know that I have worked with second and third graders on a volunteer basis for quite a few years. Much of that work is geared to encourage them to read–and, hopefully, to develop a love of learning. One of the little poems we share at the beginning of the year is:

The more you read, the more you know.
The more you know, the smarter you grow.
The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice.
When speaking your mind or making your choice.

After making some presentations to third graders in an assembly last year, I joked with a teacher about the need to offer some public speaking curriculum to third graders since none would give an acceptance speech. After thinking about it, maybe it’s not a joke. Afterall, we are trying to create an integrated education for our kids, right? And if reading makes you smart and being smarter makes your voice stronger, shouldn’t you be able to speak (and write) with greater confidence and skill–at any age?

Another interesting conversation I had recently was with a media and communications professional. We were sharing some thoughts about how much media has changed in the last decade and ended up discussing the need for “media relations” training for elementary school kids. These kids are, after all, at least social media darlings as young as babies when their parents post their photos on Facebook and other media. While this might be a topic unto itself, a reality is that a lot of kids are “stressed” over their image at increasingly young ages–partly because they haven’t learned how to manage that image.

It was bad enough when we had to worry about the Three R’s without these added challenges. But it’s also still arguable that a good foundation in “reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic” would certainly help with the challenges and perhaps allow children to have stronger voices and make better choices.

I’m increasingly pleased and impressed at the numbers of kids who talk about reading at home with a parent or grandparent. (I have a great story to share about the nine year old reading the newspaper to his grandfather in the waiting room at my chiropractor’s office.) While the work of making shared reading the norm is certainly far from complete, what about the second “R” — writing?

The good news is adults (and kids) are “writing” more… the bad news is much of that writing is poor at best. And the worse news is the media doesn’t always encourage or reward traditional writing skills. (I admit–it’s interesting to consider what Mark Twain might have “tweeted.” It’s even more interesting to consider what he would have thought about the challenge of writing something meaningful using less than 140 characters or letters.)

So here’s the challenge… if you are reading with a kid, why not introduce the idea of writing? If it seems a bit more intimidating there’s a good resource for you. You can download a 17 page guide with lots of tips for how to help your kids improve their writing skills–and make the process more natural and fun. (I suspect you could use a few of them on yourself as well!) A better idea might be to contact his or her teacher since not all school systems use the exact same vocabulary and curriculum, but in general any stimulation and encouragement will be good.

I’ve always been grateful to one college professor–“Mr. Bailey.” He taught us to write for sure, but more importantly, he made us write. Every day.  One sentence was allowed, but by the end of the semester it was hard to stop with one. You can get better simply by doing things.

We’re not going to talk about ‘rithmetic.

Yet.

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Filed under Personal Growth, Teaching

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