Last week, I discussed the importance of learning your craft and suggested certain courses available to writers. But one of the fundamental and key things that will teach you to write well is to read, read, read.
By reading, you’ll learn proper grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling—the basic tools for writing. The more you read, the more these rules will become a natural part of your writing process. For instance, in this article on becoming a better speller, the author, Catherine Osborn, was asked how she knew the word “valiant” was spelled with an “ant” and not an “ent.” She surprised herself by not really knowing how she knew this. Then she goes on to say, “The number one thing that bolsters your spelling ability is reading.”
Learn From Successful Authors
Besides learning the basics, you can also analyze why certain books are successful. Take a book that you particularly enjoyed and look at how the author developed characters, what plot devices were used, how tension was created. What was it that made you want to keep turning the page? This is especially helpful when you read books in the genre in which you write. Treat a book as your classroom and reading as the homework you don’t have to dread doing! Pile on the books. Devour them. Learn from them.
Becoming a Reader
It’s never too late to become a reader, and by this I mean wanting to read, having to read, getting a little panicky if you don’t have a book to read. Does that sound extreme? Well, that’s how I am! If I finish a book, say, at night before bed and I don’t have another book lined up, I’ll scour my bookcase for something, anything to read. Now I try to have a few books on my bedside table to avoid those late-night frantic searches.
Teach Your Kids to Love Reading
I was lucky. My love of reading was a gift given to me at an early age by my mother. She’s a retired children’s librarian, and I remember calling her at work, “Mom, I need some more books!” Until I started browsing the library bookshelves on my own, I was happy with the stack of books she brought home.
Become a reader yourself, and you can pass that love on to your children. Make reading part of the culture of your home. Your kids will do better in school, and they’ll develop a life-long joy and passion for reading, something that will forever open their hearts and minds to new worlds, new ideas. Books also offer kids (and adults) a way to look at their own life that at times can be confusing, at feelings that can be difficult to understand or express. And books can simply entertain.
In a recent article titled “How to Teach Your Child to Love Reading,” author Susan Elkin states that, according to a report by the National Literacy Trust, “only 30 per cent of children and teenagers read books daily in their own time. In 2005, the figure was 40 per cent.”
Most people’s first reaction (as was mine) is to blame television and all the electronic gadgets kids have these days. But Elkin says, “Actually, the root cause lies in the way children are taught to read and the failure to develop them as readers.” And this: “The most useful thing parents can do to encourage children and teenagers to read is to be seen reading a lot themselves.”
If you love writing, if you want to write well, you must read. Even if your dream isn’t to be a published author, become a reader. Become someone who loves to read. And pass that love on to your children.
How much do you read? How did you become a reader? Are you teaching your children to love reading?