Does Reading Make You a Better Writer?

Yes. There is a linear relationship between reading and writing. Studies have proven that reading expands writing and writing enhances reading. Each benefits the other. The academic community no longer considers them individual subjects. Instead, it believes the two should be intertwined to form a cohesive unit of study, promoting greater achievements in both. But how exactly does reading improve our writing? I do not seek to reiterate what has already been proven scientifically (articles of proof are below) but instead want to touch upon the logical argument of why each affects the other.

Thanks to advances in technology, a scientist can now identify the exact regions of the brain stimulated during reading. These same areas, according to brain-mapping, are activated by real-life experiences. In other words, the reader travels the same precarious path and the same emotions, whether good or bad, of a character in a novel. Our brains remember. Try writing about captivity without ever reading a first-hand experience of a captive. Thoughts and opinions are formulated through reading. Connections take root. Studies have proven that immersion in literary fiction increases the complexity of thought. Hence, scores are dramatically higher on writing assessments by students who read literary fiction. A direct correlation between reading and writing. Reading is knowledge and knowledge is power. The power to inspire, persuade and inform.

People’s lives are a compilation of thoughts, experiences, and memories, all stored along chemical pathways within the brain, initiated by the firing of neurons. We learn by reading. We read for our careers, our improvement, our pleasure, and these neurons are our scribes. But how does this help my writing? How can it not?’ is the better question!

A runner trains for a marathon. A bodybuilder trains for a competition. A writer should train for writing. Reading is mental stimulation; exercise for the brain. When you read, subconsciously you are absorbing POV, sentence structure, grammar, and characterization. Every component to good writing. Even historical evidence confirms the power of reading. The Roman emperor, Caligula, banned the reading of The Odyssey because he deemed it dangerous. It expressed Greek ideas of freedom. Six-thousand copies of Tyndale’s New Testament English translation were burned by the English Church. Why? Latin was the language of the clergy giving them complete control of the people. Even Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn couldn’t escape criticism. Some claimed that Twain’s hero was a reprehensible representation for impressionable young minds and removed the book from libraries. Books promote ideas and instigate change.  Reading makes us better communicators, and writing is an influential form of communication. Words have power.

“Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” ANNIE PROULX

“Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” WILLIAM FAULKNER

“Constant reading will pull you into a place where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.” STEPHEN KING

 

Attiyat, Nazzem Mohammad Abdullah. “The Impact of Pleasure Reading on Enhancing Writing Achievement and Reading Comprehension.” Arab World English Journal (AWEJ), vol. 10, no. 1, March 2019, pp. 155-165.

Barras, Colin. “Reading Literary Fiction Boosts Empathy.” New Scientist, vol. 220, no. 2938, 2013, p. 17.

Fitzgerald, Jill, and Timothy Shanahan. “Reading and Writing Relations and Their Development.” Educational Psychologist, vol. 35, no. 1, 2000, pp. 39–50.

Fletcher, P. “Other Minds in the Brain: A Functional Imaging Study of ‘Theory of Mind’ in Story Comprehension.” Cognition, vol. 57, no. 2, 1995, pp. 109–128.

Graham, Steve, and Michael Hebert. “Writing to Read: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Writing and Writing Instruction on Reading.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 81, no. 4, 2011, pp. 710–744.

Graham, Steve, et al. “Reading for Writing: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Reading Interventions on Writing.” Review of Educational Research, vol. 88, no. 2, 2017, pp. 243–284.

MacArthur, Charles A., et al. Handbook of Writing Research. The Guilford Press, 2017.

Mar, Raymond A., et al. “Exploring the Link between Reading Fiction and Empathy: Ruling out Individual Differences and Examining Outcomes.” Communications, vol. 34, no. 4, 2009, pp. 407-428.

Mar, Raymond A. “The Neural Basis of Social Cognition and Story Comprehension”. Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 62, 2011, pp. 103-134.

Pamuji, Arif. “The Correlation Between Reading Achievement and Writing Achievement to the Eight Graders of Bilingual Class At SMP Negeri 1 Palembang.” PREMISE JOURNAL:ISSN Online: 2442-482x, ISSN Printed: 2089-3345, vol. 4, no. 1, 2015.

Singer, Tania. “The Neuronal Basis and Ontogeny of Empathy and Mind Reading: Review of Literature and Implications for Future Research.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, vol. 30, no. 6, 2006, pp. 855–863.

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