Successful student writers are voracious readers. Not only are they voracious readers, but they are also extremely successful readers and this is often reflected in their testing scores. Why?
Think of reading as a door that stands before you.
The door is dark and wooden, pressed smooth by age and time. Here and there your eyes catch the ancient whirls that mark the oak. It is a soft wood, forgiving and knowing--standing as it has always stood each time you have approached it. The door is all at once familiar and comforting, yet you cannot make yourself lift your arm and press a hand against the threshold. You are immobile, yet having innate knowledge that getting through the door will somehow lead to what the other side is promising.
Expecting. Urging. Asking.
This is how many of us feel when its time to open a book that we have been procrastinating reading, an e-mail that we have laid to the side, a letter that needs answering. Indeed, this is also how children in particular feel when they have been opening and closing textbooks for the better part of their school day, longing for the sweet moment where bells ringing signify the end of reading and the start of play.
You would be hard pressed to find a child eager to get home and dive back into the book they have been reading as opposed to pressing the power button on the nearest piece of technology they can find. Some escape into structured after school activities, while others take the opportunity to stay as far away from academic activities as they can manage. Reading has been waylaid, not to be picked up until the next day's classes.
But while we might be hard pressed to find these readers, its not impossible. Children readers are created and cultivated--this is the first step in the journey. If your child is a reader, then he or she is holding entire worlds inside of them, and alongside the creation of these worlds also the tools with which they will need to succeed in their life. How?
Children are natural mimic machines. What they take in they also replicate--how many times have you caught your child somehow inherently using some of the same phrases you use? Adapting the same habits? Picking up your movement and somehow also moving in the same way?
You are a model for the way your child sees the world. Your actions, thoughts, and words affect the way they also respond to all of the stimulus around them. So, too, do we see this in practice when children pick up a book and read. Implicitly they are digesting the ways in which to craft a sentence, in which to use verb-noun agreement, the placement of commas, dashes, and periods. Even the simple fundamentals of what a full paragraph looks like--dialogue alongside expression. By exposing themselves to writing, they are seeing the model before them, which will influence their own writing.
It is crucial for children to read in order to develop and establish their writing. They need these models to be constantly placed in front of them in order to intuit many of the skills and rules involved in writing that must be memorized.
By exposing your child to reading, you are ensuring that they are developing their reading skills alongside their writing skills. Most importantly you are ensuring that your child will develop an innate ability to write in such a way that they do not even realize they are picking up these skills.
Watch your readers. Watch as they dominate their classmates in writing assignments, as they adapt projects and tests with finesse simply because they are able to not only master their content and material--but also express that mastery.
But they need you. Readers are made. So if we think of your child as standing before that very door which you, yourself, are hesitant to open how can they access it? It starts with your modeling.
Picking up the book is the extension of your hand turning the knob on that door while opening its starched pages is the flex of your arm as you push. What lies open before you?
To read is to open gateways to worlds that exist all at once inside and outside of us. To read is to show your child its importance in life. Assign yourselves time to read every day. Start small, then work your way up to larger blocks of time. But do it. And do it now. Their success depends on it.