Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Is Happening To My Own Reading?

       Recently I’m noticing more possibilities for lessons from the various books, magazines and journals I read that inform my teaching.  Perhaps it’s just that I’m making better choices, but I am really reading more intentionally than ever before.  How can that be?  I’ve been an avid reader all my life, and read prolifically.  I’ve taught reading skills and facilitated countless book groups.  I belonged to a book group for several years.  
        So, I have a theory.  Because I have been writing more regularly this year than ever before, I believe the writing is informing my reading.  I know that there are numerous connections from reading to writing, but most of them focus on reading makes the better writer.  I use mentor texts to teach students writing skills and to learn the lessons myself.  Yet, as I write more, I am noticing so much more in the books I read.  I wonder if some of the writing we do with students should now place some emphasis on increasing student awareness of entertaining new kinds of questions as they read? 
Here are some examples:

            Remember when you struggled to write the beginning of your (short story, memoir, personal essay)?  What are some of the reasons you had for what you chose?  Why do you think this author chose this lead?

            What senses do you see this author using in the writing that you have used in your own writing?  Which one do you like using the most?  Why do you think that’s a favorite?

            When you write a poem, what kind of lines seem to end up on the page first?  What do you think this poet did in this particular poem?  What did he leave out that you might include?  How did the lines break?  Do you remember thinking about your line breaks?  What made sense to you? 

            What does the author do here to make a connection with the rest of the text?  Is there a time you started with a personal story that helped you lead into a report?  Do you enjoy authors who do that?  Do you have another way that you’ve written when beginning an essay?

            If we can move the writing student into examining their reading as they have examined their writing, we might see deeper reading.  It could become totally circular, not just reading to writing.  I realize there is already some of this back and forth connecting, but also that teachers could become more deliberate in their lessons about writing that leads to better reading.  From Lucy Calkins’ Reading and Writing Project FAQ’s:  There is a great deal of data suggesting that improvements in writing will have a payoff across the curriculum.  This is the only reference I was able to find that appears to address directly what I am suggesting.  Numerous other sites give specific ideas in using mentor texts to aid in writing improvement.  


  1. Reading and writing are so closely linked that I think each enhances and helps with the other. I've found that as I write more, my desire to read has increased, and I do feel more discerning of an author's technique. So I do think we are missing the boat if we don't let writing and reading work with each other as we work with students.

  2. I really like the way you are thinking. I totally agree with you. We need to get more teachers to connect the two instead of seeing them as separate subjects. BTW I tried out you QR code, cool!

  3. Donna & Elsie, thanks for your thinking too! I am really intrigued by this, and hope I can get some of my colleagues to discuss it, too. Elsie, hope you like the site!

  4. I think you are onto a good theory. Love the use of mentor texts. I feel like it is a way to use the author as the teacher in my classroom, channeling the author's thinking in a way! For myself as a reader, I agree that when you write about your reading your own thinking and interpretation comes forth. Your understanding or misunderstanding is clarified. If you just read and put the book down, the thoughts have no place to go!

  5. Linda,
    So funny. I was just reading this post at Two Writing Teachers It's interesting how writing and reading go hand and hand. We often think about how reading supports our writing, but our writing also changes the way we read. I'm often talking to students who are trying to write particular pieces about choosing books during Reader's Workshop that will support that work. Thanks for the reminder that many of these opportunities are not only in books, but in magazines, journals, blogs, new articles, and a variety of other places.


  6. Love your questions! I guess I'm thinking that if great musicians and artists are taught by studying and imitating the masters, why not writers?

  7. Urgh, I need to write more. I read like the dickens but don't follow through with the writing. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. I've observed this too - even more distinctly now that I have GatheringBooks. I am fairly used to academic writing - being in the university - and my eyes are sharpened to find the littlest detail in the dissertation/theses papers that I often mark - be it for my students or my own supervisees or papers submitted for peer review. Yet I discovered that my writing book reviews for GatheringBooks has quickened my wits and has enabled me to discipline my sensibilities and refine the art and science of reading more 'intentionally' as you have put it - to capture the core, the heart of the material and pin it down through my reviews/writing. While others find it to be a chore, I think of it as a wondrous gift. :)


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