Is reading important for writing?

I have recently started a creative writing club where I work for a group of children aged between 11 and 15 and I had a huge amount of interest in it, which I was really please with, and quite frankly surprised by – mostly because of the amount of students willing to stay behind after school for the club.

So, from the outset, it was clear to me that children are generally interested in writing and are naturally creative creatures. However, as soon as I started this club I hit a great, massive, brick wall. For the first creative writing task, I thought it might be fun to run a project. The outline of this project was to work in groups, and take a book that they had read (at least 1 of them needed to have read it) and turn it into a play. The problem arose when practically none of the students could think of a book they had read.

Bearing in mind that these are children who have elected to join a creative writing club, yet did not seem able to recall any books. When I asked them about this, the majority of them informed me that they do not read outside of the classroom (this, despite the fact that the school has a strict policy that every student must take a book out of the library every fortnight). It got me thinking about the importance of reading.

I decided to change the topic to short story writing instead. So, after the first couple of sessions, when they had finished their short stories, I collected them up and read through them. What I found was not at all surprising. Most of the stories were creative and were based on good ideas (so clearly not reading did not effect their creativity much). However, for the couple of children who did read for pleasure, it was clear that reading effected their writing. The range of vocabulary they used was much wider and more mature, their stories were more captivating and the format was better.

It was clear then, to me, that reading is an important tool for structured and creative writing. I honestly think that there is not enough done to promote reading and I am going back to the drawing board to try and solve this – at least for my students! If you have any ideas on promoting reading to teenagers, please let me know.

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