One blog post is simply not enough to encompass all that the reading-writing connection entails. I have merely segmented out a small snippet from this chapter to highlight my thinking and reflections, but there is so much more…
Reading and writing should go hand in hand. Like peanut butter and jelly, each able to stand alone, yet so much better when layered together. Unfortunately, for many of us in the education business, the two are treated as separate entities and often each has its own curriculum. This poses a problem, not just for teachers who want to marry the two, but for our students as well. When taught in isolation, there is very little chance of making those strong connections that bond reading and writing as soulmates.
Regie makes me even more cognizant about being proactive and intentional with my instruction based on her writing under the heading; Read Like a Writer. “Because I write for readers, I deliberately notice what other authors do in terms of tone, voice, word choice, language play, all aspects of craft, setting, character development, how I’m affected as a reader, and so much more. So it’s been a surprise for me how little of that we share with our students. We read aloud; we may write in front of our students; we talk about books; but in my experience it’s rare for us teachers to make the reading-writing connection visible. Our students do not automatically think, ‘I’m going to try out in my own writing what that author just did.’ We have to explicitly demonstrate that transfer for them and encourage them to take risks and try out new styles, crafts, and language.” (183)
For years I had done all those things Regie talks about; read alouds, writing in front of my students, talking about books, etc…but it wasn’t until the last couple of years when I was immersed in graduate school that I began to truly understand the reading-writing connection. The minute I started being explicit and intentional about noticing and noting things authors did in their stories, I saw similar things popping up in my students writing, and they were excited about sharing their writing with everyone! It made them feel like “real” authors. So even though I had thought I was doing some pretty good modeling and teaching of reading and writing, I was unintentionally denying them the richer learning that comes when one understands the connection between the two. As soon as I made that connection more visible, my students were able to run with it and enhance their own writing.
Beyond just being deliberate, intentional, and making the reading-writing connection visible to students, Regie gives great suggestions and ideas in the “Take Action” sections of the chapter on Embracing the Reading-Writing Connection. From simple things like including “Hip hop, song, rap, dance, film and other art forms that resonate with our children,”(172) to “Teaching students to read like writers” (185), we are supplied with a gamut of rich ideas to help our students make stronger connections between reading and writing. It starts with truly knowing our students and their interests, offering choice in their reading and writing lives, and building from there.
Even though I had thought I was doing some pretty good modeling and teaching of reading and writing, I was unintentionally denying them the richer learning that comes when one understands the connection between the two. As soon as I made that connection more visible, my students were able to run with it and enhance their own writing.
Regie closes out this chapter with some profound words of advice for educators; “Unique and effective craft, style, and technique have to be inhaled and digested by an engaged reader who is immersed in one unforgettable reading experience after another.” (191) AND “Exercises in a book on craft might help us teachers know what to look for, but only deep, pleasurable reading and noticing what writers do will provide the sustenance and specifics that lead students to read like a writer and expertly craft their writing.” (191)
I just keep reading and rereading those two quotes, (well… basically everything in this book, but I’m focusing on those two at the moment) trying to digest them and think of ways to shift the mindset away from teaching them separately. Regie talks about a safe place to start being the content areas of science and social studies. And it does work nicely there. So maybe that’s where we begin, but we must do more. Teachers need to be experts at understanding the reading-writing connection so that they can impart that knowledge to their students and stop relying on scripted curriculums that teach each as a separate entity. We can do better than that. Our students deserve better than that.