Writing Directly Benefits Reading

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Now there is the study to prove it. The Alliance for Excellent Education and the Carnegie Corporation of New York teamed up and prepared this report (link here) entitled Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. The upshot is that writing improves both reading comprehension and context learning – the more you write about what you are reading and learning, the better your understanding and comprehension of what you are reading. From the Foreword of the report:

Ariel and Will Durant were right when they said, “Education is the transmission of civilization.” Putting our current challenges into historical context, it is obvious that if today’s youngsters cannot read with understanding, think about and analyze what they’ve read, and then write clearly and effectively about what they’ve learned and what they think, then they may never be able to do justice to their talents and their potential.(In that regard, the etymology of the word forth”—from oneself, for example—is certainly evocative.) Indeed, young people who do not have the ability to transform thoughts, experiences, and ideas into written words are in danger of losing touch with the joy of inquiry, the sense of intellectual curiosity, and the inestimable satisfaction of acquiring wisdom that are the touchstones of humanity. What that means for all of us is that the essential educative transmissions that have been passed along century after century, generation after generation, are in danger of fading away, or even falling silent.

The authors describes the acts of writing and reading for comprehension “survival skills” for the general population. Even moreso for lawyers who depend heavily on being able to not only read and understand fine points and minutae of statutes, case law and other legal material, but also to effectively write about what they have read in order to shape important outcomes. Writing begets reading, which begets writing.

While the report addresses student learning and recommends strategies for improving reading skills, the information is fascinating and has post-graduate and professional application. Want to better understand your subject matter? Take notes, write essays, create blog posts, memoranda and briefs, distilling what your have read into the written word. And be better prepared to argue your point.

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