Chapter 21: The Reading-Writing Connection
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What does writing have to do with reading?
Many famous authors say they learned to write by reading. There is a very strong connection between the two skills. Think about it. When you write, you have to concentrate on the meaning of the words you’re choosing, the placement of those words in each sentence, and even how to most effectively get your ideas across. Once you write something, you read it over to make sure it’s correct. All of these skills reinforce and strengthen reading proficiency.
Get them writing!
Most teachers struggle to find time for writing practice. Between special programs, federally mandated testing schedules and the drive to incorporate the Common Core curriculum, there just isn’t enough time in the day to assign writing projects, let alone go over them with each child. That’s where parents come in. You can find fun, sneaky ways to get your child writing. And those projects don’t have to be long or complicated — or even seem like schoolwork.
Once you start the ball rolling, most kids will have so much fun, they’ll find ways to write all on their own. Need some ideas? Read on!
- A family newsletter – A family newsletter can be simple or complex. It can just be a handwritten article and a drawing that illustrates it, or it can be typed up on the computer with photos pasted in. If your child is stumped for newsworthy ideas, suggest vacation reviews, upcoming birthdays, interviews with grandparents, or even funny stories.
- Shopping lists – When it’s time to go grocery shopping, let your child help you with the shopping list. Have her sit at the kitchen table with a pencil and some paper while you go through your cupboards or recipe file to determine what you need to get from the store. Call out the things you need, and your child can write them down. You can really ramp up her interest in this project by letting her add one or two of her own items to the list. Gummy bears, anyone?
- Postcards – Postcards are the ideal writing project for a struggling reader simply because their size limits the amount of writing that can go on them. This can encourage a child who might feel overwhelmed by a bigger project. Let your child pick a dozen or so postcards the next time you’re at the store. Then let her send a quick note to Grandma, her teacher or even a friend who lives next door. The returning postcards will reward her efforts, encouraging her to send out more.
- Pen pals – Exchanging letters is a great way to practice both reading and writing. It’s fun to talk to someone your own age and exciting to watch the mailbox for an answer. Knowing someone her own age will be reading what your child wrote can be very motivating, as well. You may find that your child wants you to look over her letters carefully, so she won’t be embarrassed by mistakes. It’s not safe to let your child write to a stranger, so look for a pen pal for her among friends and family, or perhaps even through her teacher or your own co-workers.
- Comic books – Most kids love comics. Their short sections of text and bright illustrations can pull a struggling reader from page to page. If your child already loves these action-packed stories, why not encourage her to write one of her own? If she has an artistic bent, then she will only need some blank paper and a packet of colored pencils to get started. If she seems a little lost and doesn’t know where to begin, you can help jump-start her project by printing out some templates. There are lots of sites on the Internet that let you print out blank comic book pages.
Be sure to engage with your child
Writing in isolation is not the best way to learn. Once you’ve got your child interested in one – or all – of the projects above, be sure to let her read her creations back to you. It will not only increase her interest to know that you want to be involved with her writing projects, it will also give you an opportunity to correct some of the mistakes she will have inevitably made.
A word of caution about making corrections, though: If your child has made some mistakes, keep your input upbeat and age-appropriate. Perfection isn’t the goal here. The goal is learning, and learning always comes in baby steps. Simply point out one or two of her mistakes and help her correct them, but let the rest go for now.