“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot.” — Stephen King
Often taught separately, reading and writing are interdependent and “reading instruction is most effective when intertwined with writing instruction and vice versa,” according to the reading instruction resource website, K12 Reader. The following are four strategies recommended for using reading and writing to reinforce development of literacy skills:
Discovering a genre that is interesting to the student is the first step. Immersing the child in the genre by reading and discussing structure, language, phonics and content helps prepare the child to write in that genre. Teachers should help students apply what they’ve learned from their genre-specific reading to their own composition.
Reading to Develop Specific Writing Skills
When a teacher is able to identify specific writing skills that a student needs to develop, it’s helpful to have them read and discuss examples of writing that successfully demonstrate that skill. For example, if students need help writing engaging introductions, presenting them with great examples gives them something to emulate and helps improve their own ability to write introductions.
Integrating “Sound” Instruction in Reading and Writing
Helping students master the connection between sounds and letters is vital to helping them become better readers. Using phonemic awareness and phonics, teachers can help with “sounding out” the words a student is reading as well as the words a student wants to write.
Choice in Reading and Writing
Not every story, book or poem appeals to all students. Teachers have long recognized that students are more motivated to read if they are allowed to choose subject matter that interests them. The same is true for writing. Allowing students to choose topics they find interesting helps them see that writing is personal and allows them to own what they write.
Teaching writing and encouraging students to write are both viewed as central to the development of early reading. Even at the pre-kindergarten or kindergarten age, children who are encouraged to write, spelling words as they sound them, develop phonemic awareness which helps them learn to read, according to David Pearson, an expert on early literacy. He contends that “it’s surely the case that kids use the stories they read as models for their writing. But it also works back the other way.”
Pearson makes the point that when students write in the classroom, the expectation is that their writing will be read by their peers as well as their teacher. Peer editing, in which the writer has to answer the questions of peers, teaches the first steps of critical reading and helps readers learn how to identify the writer’s intent and purpose. Peer editing helps writers write more clearly for their audience.
Writing has a central role in the development of early reading, and, according to Pearson, the best way to build a reading/language arts program for early learners is to have a writing time every day in class, even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes.
Literacy Studies for Teachers
The online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction — Literacy Studies program at the University of Texas at Arlington provides a variety of advanced coursework for teachers who want to improve student literacy. Students of this program may pursue professional certification for a number of roles or in high-need areas such as Reading Specialist and English as a Second Language.
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