“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King
There’s a plethora of writing advice that tells us to read, read, and read. We need to read a lot to make us better readers. But I thought about it the other way around — does writing make you a better reader?
I consider myself more of a writer than a reader, and I fervently believe that being a writer makes me a better reader. I know what it’s like for people when they publish personal, difficult pieces. I know the experience of what the writer was probably feeling when he or she wrote the book.
As a writer, I can empathize with other writers more. I am not a writer by trade, but by condition. As a writer, I wonder what went into the mind, process, and time that went into an author’s article. Currently, I’m reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and relating my writing about teaching and pedagogy to my own writings about the same.
When I was younger, I struggled with reading comprehension. A lot. Until middle school, I was behind grade level in reading, and only persevered by going through the motions. I remember when my mom forced me to read and how much I hated the books I was reading. As a kid, I was only really engaged in Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan, as Percy, Annabeth, Ethan, and Thalia will always be cemented in my childhood.
I will argue that what got me through that hump was being able to write. I was going through a lot at the time. From my parents going through a separation to constantly having to move schools, I had a very visceral reaction to a lot of what I was going through as a kid.
It isn’t until I’m older, as an adult, to have “oh shit” moments that a lot of the things that went on in my family were not normal. I will not openly speak on these realities, as this is still the public arena, and while my privacy is one thing, my family’s privacy is another.
But how I got into reading more was by writing about what I read. In middle school, my teachers would make us write a lot of reflection pieces and have us do a lot of free-writes where we expressed out thinking, emotions, and feelings. As a teacher now, I know that no, I did not always use textual evidence in my free-writes. I did not always relate what I was going through or thinking about to a book. When I did have to do long responses and essays, however, I felt more comfortable in my own skin, more confident in my own voice. It didn’t matter if what I had to say wasn’t right in the eyes of a tester or evaluator, but I knew that I would defend my arguments
Writing, however, has always been therapeutic for me. I couldn’t find any research to associate whether writing makes you a better reading, but all I can say is that for me, writing did make me a better reader. It’s not that I know the experience of what it means to write as much as it means writing about a book, and teaching a book, is the best way to comprehend it.
For me, writing about a book or an article is about much more than just reading comprehension. Writing is a means to take power into your own hands, to interpret a book, article, or newsletter any way you wish. That requires manipulation but it also increases your confidence in the fact that you have the control and authority to write and have your own opinion.
For example, right now, in reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire writes that “in order for the struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is a way to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but restorers of the humanity of both.”
Right now, my analysis of that quote from Freire is that I have become someone who is, in a form, an oppressed person who oppresses the oppressed. I am complicit in an education system that is more concerned about compliance than it is about critical thinking and genuine education. I am complicit in a system that is more concerned about control than it is about learning. On most days, my focus is on keeping kids in their seats and controlling a classroom rather than making sure my kids are actually learning something.
Writing about that quote from Freire made me not only comprehend it better, but take personal ownership over my reading. I would not be a good reader if I weren’t a writer. That is a fact. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but instead of seeing reading and writing as a linear relationship where you can only write well if you read a lot, why not see it as an interdependent relationship, where both tie into each other?
Writing makes you a better reader — of that, I am now sure.