More Writing Can Boost Reading Skills


Reading and writing have become essential skills for almost every job, yet the majority of students do not read or write well enough to meet grade-level demands. A report co-authored by Vanderbilt researchers Steve Graham and Michael Hebert finds that while the two skills are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning.

“While writing is important in its own right, the evidence clearly shows that writing supports reading and reading development. Increasing how often students write has positive benefits on their development as readers,” says Graham, professor and Currey Ingram Chair in Special Education and Literacy at Peabody College.

“Previous research demonstrates that writing about information presented in science, math, English and social studies also supports students’ learning in those subjects. If we want to maximize students’ accomplishments in these critical areas, writing needs to become part of the solution.”

The report, Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading, was commissioned by the Carnegie Corp. of New York and published by the Alliance for Excellent Education. It was released April 14 and is available here and here.

Writing to Read is part of a series of Carnegie-funded reports intended to reengineer literacy instruction across the curriculum to drive student achievement.

The three closely related instructional practices that Writing to Read identifies as being effective in improving students’ reading are: Have students write about the texts they read; teach students the writing skills and processes that go into creating text; and increase how much students write.

The report carefully notes that writing practices cannot take the place of effective reading practices and calls for writing to complement reading instruction, stating that each type of practice supports and strengthens the other.

Writing to Read builds on the ideas presented in a 2006 Alliance report also co-authored by Graham, Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School Literacy.

Hebert is a pre-doctoral fellow at Peabody College.

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