If my children like to read, will they be better writers?
January 5, 2017
The important link between reading and writing
I’ve long wondered if an interest in reading helps my child learn in other areas too. I got a partial answer to this question last week. Here’s what happened:
My son (who’s in grade four) had to write a story about anything he wanted for school. The topic, characters, beginning, middle, and end were all up to him. There was no end to the possibilities! When I asked him what he wanted to write about, he looked at me with shining eyes and said, “I want to write a book with all my favourite Pokémon in it. Just like the books I read!” A while ago I had found a series of Pokémon books that my son loved. A few days later, he brought me his workbook and said, “Read this, Mom!” I’m a teacher at heart, so I asked him to read me his story—which also helped him realize that some of his sentences weren’t as clear as he thought. “Wow! Your story is fantastic! What are you going to write in chapter two?” I said. After a moment’s thought, he said, “My first character is going to say this, and then my second character is going to say that.” I asked him if he knew how to write dialogue. “No,” he said. So I said, “Go get your Pokémon book and we’ll see how the author did it.”
So you see, the benefits reading has on writing go far beyond this simple anecdote. Without him even being aware of it, reading helped my son explore a topic he’s passionate about and learn how to write a beginning, middle, and end. He reads and rereads high-frequency words. He’s absorbing structures for texts that he may one day reuse when he’s writing, like when he learned how to write dialogue. The magical thing about books is that they don’t just inspire and amuse us—they stick with us.
What does the research say?
I like to look at scientific studies too. A study on child development in Quebec provides an interesting overview of the effect of reading on academic success. The study monitored children born in 1997 and 1998 from early childhood until present day, and the results are thought-provoking. Here are some of the findings:
- Children who liked to read and flip through books for fun at a young age were better readers in elementary school
- The more children were motivated to read, the more they developed reading habits
- Youths who read more were not only better readers, but also had better writing and grammar skills
- Youths who read more did better in math
- They also used effective strategies like making connections between information and summarizing ideas in their own words
What can I do to encourage all these good learning habits?
Make sure your children read a little every day, from when they’re very young until they’re teenagers. Help them find books that interest them and encourage them to talk about what they’re reading. That’s it. Our job as parents is to make reading available, accessible, useful, and fun because when you invest in reading, you get so much more out of it than you’d expect.