Reading Needs Writing! A Vital, But Neglected, Message

Reading Needs Writing

Every language system has two modes: one for producing messages and one for receiving messages. In spoken language, those two modes are speaking and listening. In written language (literacy), they are writing and reading.

A significant discrepancy exists in to the way we conceptualize the two systems. In spoken language (a “natural process” that normally occurs without formal instruction) both modes are highly valued. One would never choose between speaking and listening. We instinctively know that each needs the other.

But that view does not hold for literacy — a process that requires formalized teaching. In that realm, far greater emphasis is placed on reading as opposed to writing. The difference is evident in many areas. For example, the number of research studies on reading greatly exceeds those on writing. Similarly, national reports on achievement stress reading far more than writing.

The general population has understandably been affected by this bias. As a result, when children are having trouble reading, parents eagerly seek help. With writing problems, that is rarely the case.

The source for those reactions rests not simply with societal influence. The simple fact is that writing is harder. Even the physical skills required to produce writing are far more demanding than those required for reading — particularly for young children. For a start, writing requires fine motor movements that often prove to be difficult for them (that’s why tying shoelaces can be such a challenge). While keyboarding has made the task a bit easier, smooth typing is still a fairly rigorous activity, particularly when viewed through the eyes of a five or 6-year-old. Even older children do not find it easy.

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