Reading for Life: Writing for Life

by Rhonda H. Lauer on April 28, 2011

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As part of the exciting series Reading for Life, Foundations’ President and CEO Rhonda H. Lauer shares her expertise and insights about grade level reading. Join Ms. Lauer as she offers key viewpoints and commentary based on her extensive experience working in Philadelphia–and across the country–to give our children and young people the educational opportunities they deserve.

A few weeks ago I came across a fascinating interview with Keren Taylor, the founder of the non-profit organization WriteGirl that pairs professional women writers with high school girls in Los Angeles. Local English teachers help the organization identify girls who would most benefit from the program, both low and high achievers, from a variety of cultures and family backgrounds. Through weekly one-on-one sessions and monthly writing workshops, the teens explore all sorts of writing – poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, journalism, songwriting, playwriting, journaling, you name it. Now in its tenth year, WriteGirl has a 100% success rate in getting their girls to graduate from high school and enroll in college.

Writing and reading are natural partners. In fact, writing is essential for reading success. Even before children attempt to sound out words on a page, they scribble, draw, write pretend letters, and use invented spellings.  This is called “emergent writing.” It is a child’s first effort to create and use print in a meaningful way, and it helps prepare a child to be ready to read.

In addition to being a building block for literacy, writing can also directly improve reading, as highlighted in “Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading,” a report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  The report identifies three practices, in particular, that enhance students’ ability to read texts accurately, fluently, and with comprehension: (1) having students write about what they read, (2) teaching students about the structure of written work (e.g., spelling, sentence and paragraph construction), and (3) increasing the amount of time that students spend writing.

WriteGirl’s got it right.  Let’s encourage our students not only to read stories, poems, plays, magazine articles, and song lyrics but to write them, too.  It will empower them for life.

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