October 22, 2020 – The Key to Writing is Reading

Why do so many people have trouble expressing themselves on paper?

I am seeing so many parents struggling to help their children “learn to write”.

But writing isn’t the direct issue. We know how to form letters and copy information. The difficulty occurs when you are trying to transfer a story from your brain onto paper (or a screen).

I have found the key to this for both my children and myself is reading. The more written words you read (or simply hear), the more brain connections are made and the easier it becomes for you to write out what is in your head.

All 3 of my children write well. They have all 3 used different writing curricula. The common thread is the books we read. Beautiful, classic books with well developed characters, extraordinary plots, fantastic settings, and a few life lessons sprinkled along the way. We cheer for the heroes, we mourn the evil that overcomes them, and we are ultimately affected by the story.

Books help us develop into passionate, responsible, empathetic humans. They also develop our sense and style of language. We learn to mimic writing that fits our personality. We quote things that speak deeply to us.

So how does reading transfer practically into writing? Let’s explore some simple yet helpful tips to help ease that transition from spoken word into written word.

1 – Keep a reading log. This can simply be a $1 notebook. Or if you have a creative child, it can be an elaborate journal.

In this log, simply write the date, the book title, and the author. Then keep tabs on what stands out, any quotes that are special, drawings, any emotions evoked, etc.

Some books you or your student may not finish. That’s ok. If a book doesn’t grab you, set it to the side and pick up a different one.

Life is too short and there are too many books to be read.

2 – Imitate things you love. The classic method of writing is to copy stories you love. Change the character, change the setting, change the villain. Is it plagiarism? Only if you take credit for it as your own. If you make it know that this is simply a writing exercise, then it’s instruction using a beautiful pattern.

For example – rewrite a piece of The Cat in the Hat. Change the rooms, change the ending, make Thing 1 and Thing two some other creatures.

This allows your brain to follow a pattern rather than staring at a blank page. My favorite writing curriculum that employs this method is Writing & Rhetoric – Book 1 – Aesop’s Fables. That program instilled a love of writing into my 3rd perfectionist child who was terrified of “not doing it right”.

3 – Poetry. Oh how I love teaching poetry! Rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, metaphor, simile, and more. Poetry can be serious or silly, fiction or fantasy, structured or free verse.

We have done a poetry unit every spring for years. All 3 of my children have placed in poetry competitions. This is my favorite book to use for poetry study: R is for Rhyme.

It breaks down so many types and patterns of poetry into simple, friendly descriptions that are simple to emulate.

Please read and read and read!

Audiobooks, read alouds, children’s books, classics, comics, anything and everything.

Reading makes great people and great communicators.

My current read – It’s excellent!

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