How to Develop Good Reading and Writing Habits

Reading and writing skills are integrally linked.  Reading skills inform our writing skills.  Both are forms of written communication.  In almost every field of work, written communication is a requirement.  The higher the skill level attained by a given individual, the higher the level of related work available to that individual. Regardless of your level of education, high levels of these skills are required to be successful in today’s challenging workforce.  

Reading seems to be positively correlated with just about every aspect of personal and social behavior, including but not limited to: financial success, social and civic sensibilities and artistic aesthetics.[i]   Reading and writing are fundamental to our society.  In this article, I am making the assumption that the reader is an adult who is interested in developing good reading and writing habits; however, this discussion is easily adapted to help children as well.

In a report released in January 2009 by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), reading is on the rise for the first time in twenty-five years.  Adults 18 and older reported that are reading more, at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months.[ii]  While, this may seem a modest amount of reading by an adult, it does signify an increase.   This new data seems to be reversing a decline of almost twenty-five years.  Good news for all of us.  So how can we all learn better reading and writing habits?

Read fiction.  Read what you want to read.  Be curious, and make it fun.  Take a trip to the library. Join a book club. Stop by a used book store.  Find an author whose books you really enjoy.  It can be books of just about any genre: thrillers, mysteries, science-fiction, fantasy.  If you have children, read with them or to them.  This will help cultivate their love of reading as well. Remember that a reading habit will not be developed overnight. It will take time.  But as you read more, your enjoyment tends to positively reinforce the activity, leading to more reading.

The 2009 NEA report shows that the greatest rise is reading is in the area of fiction (drama and poetry reading continues to decline). [iii]  Read online.  Statistically, 77% of those who read online blogs and the like, also read printed books. [iv]  This may indeed show that what you read is not as important as the act of reading itself.

Writing grows directly out of reading.  If you want to learn to write well, you must read, and read, and then read some more.  I had a professor in a business law class in college who believed strongly that writing skills grew out of the reading of fiction.  I suspect that he was correct.  In reading fiction, we become attuned to how a story unfolds from paragraph to paragraph.  With sufficient reading, the way language is structured becomes ingrained in us over time.  We learn how and where a noun is used, or a verb or a preposition.  We may not know a dangling particle when we see it, but we will know that the language is not clear in that sentence that we just read.

As you read, notice how other writing form their thoughts on the page.  Look for clear and concise writing.  Look for the placement of the noun, the placement of the verb.  Get help from a tutor if needed.  But remember, the most important thing is to keep on reading!

[i]  To Read or not to Read, A Question of National Consequence, Research Report #47, National Endowment for the Arts, available online at: http://www.nea.gov/research/ResearchReports_chrono.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/books/12reading.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss citing to: Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy, available online at: www.nea.gov/research/ReadingonRise.pdf

[iii]  Id.

[iv]  Id.