National Writing Project

New Report Finds That Writing Can Be Powerful Driver for Improving Reading Skills

Date: April 14, 2010

Summary: While writing and reading skills are closely connected, writing is an often overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning, according to Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading, a new report from Carnegie Corporation of New York published by the Alliance for Excellent Education.


The majority of American students still do not read or write well enough to meet grade-level demands, and poor literacy skills play a role in why many students do not complete high school.

To help reverse that trend, the authors of Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading (PDF) call for writing to complement reading instruction because each type of practice supports and strengthens the other.

The new report was released on April 14 in Washington D.C. Following a presentation of the report's findings, a panel of experts, including Tanya Baker, director of National Programs for the National Writing Project, explored the implications of the findings for the implementation of common core standards and federal policy. (Event video, audio, and summary materials are on the Alliance for Excellent Education website .)

The report provides practitioners with research-supported information about how writing improves reading while making the case for researchers and policymakers to place greater emphasis on writing instruction as an integral part of school curriculum.

Of special note, the report identifies three core instructional practices that have been shown to be effective in improving student reading:

1) Have students write about the texts they read. Writing about a text enhances comprehension because it provides students with a tool to visibly and permanently record, connect, analyze, personalize, and manipulate key ideas in text.

2) Teach students the writing skills and processes that go into creating text.

3) Increase how much students write. Students' reading comprehension is improved by having them increase how often they produce their own text. The process of creating a text prompts students to be more thoughtful and engaged when reading text produced by others. The act of writing also teaches students about the importance of stating assumptions and premises clearly and observing the rules of logic. Students also benefit from using experience and knowledge to create a text and from building relationships among words, sentences, and paragraphs.

Reading and Writing as Survival Skills

"Ensuring that adolescents become skilled readers and writers is not merely an option for America—it is an absolute necessity," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia. "As Writing to Read demonstrates, instruction in writing not only improves how well students write, but also enhances students' ability to read a text accurately, fluently, and comprehensively."

"In an age overwhelmed by information, the ability to read, comprehend, and write—in other words, to organize information into knowledge—must be viewed as tantamount to a survival skill," added Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Writing to Read is part of a series of Carnegie Corporation of New York–funded reports intended to reengineer literacy instruction across the curriculum to drive student achievement. The initial report, Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Readiness, and accompanying reports were published in September 2009.

Writing to Read was authored by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert (both from Vanderbilt University), and builds on the ideas presented in a 2006 Alliance report, Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School Literacy.

NWP's National Reading Initiative

The National Writing Project's National Reading Initiative has been supported in part by the Carnegie Corporation. Nineteen Writing Project sites received support to study, refine, and expand their models for professional development in reading. In 2007, continuing support from the Carnegie Corporation led to the Advancing Literacy program. Through Advancing Literacy, Writing Project sites continue to receive resources, opportunities, and support to expand their work with reading and to better prepare them to work with academic literacy across the curriculum.

Download the Report

Download Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading (PDF) from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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