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The Reading/Writing Connection

Rachel K. Patty
East Carolina University: READ 6418


After years of observation and studies, researchers and educators now view reading and
writing as reciprocal cognitive processes that have a positive influence on students literacy
proficiencies when taught together. Through each reading and writing stage students interact
with similar language, structure, and comprehension processes. By using explicit language and
activating prior knowledge teachers can integrate reading and writing in the classroom.


Years ago reading and writing were seen as entirely separate activities in the classroom.
Fitzgerald and Shanahan (2000) speculate this to be the result of people valuing reading and
writing differently, consequently focusing on the instruction of one over the other, the
curriculum that was developed during this time, and educators viewing the activities as irrelevant
to one another. There is no doubt about it that reading and writing are not identical, for example,
Aulls (1975) and Fitzgerald and Shanahan (2000) point out they can be learned separately. They
have different cognitive starting points, and only the writer can know the true meaning behind
the words written and the reader can do nothing but infer what was intended. Fitzgerald and
Shanahan (2000) make a profound statement when they say, If reading and writing really were
identical and not just similar, then it may make sense to teach only reading or writing (p. 43).
As education theories and practices have evolved throughout the decades the view on the
connection between reading and writing has evolved as well. Although they are not identical,
researchers and educators have found them to be similar processes that reap great developmental
benefits when taught together. Ultimately, the instruction to improve one of the processes should
improve the other process as well (Graham, 2011). In this review of literature, the
reading/writing connection will be further explained by taking a closer look at the reciprocal
cognitive processes, research performed and the empirical data found, and ways to integrate
reading and writing in the classroom.
Reading and Writing as Reciprocal Cognitive Processes
Raphael, Kirschner, and Englert (1988), Aulls (1975), Anderson and Briggs (2011),
Fitzgerald and Shanahan (2000), Blackburn (1984), and Graham and Hebert (2011) all refer to
reading and writing as being reciprocal activities that have similar cognitive processes. They are
ways in which the student learns how to make sense of print through the act of seeking out

information, constantly checking oneself throughout the activity, and self-correcting (Anderson
& Briggs, 2011). Fitzgerald and Shanahan (2000) argue that there are four different types of
knowledge that are shared by readers and writers. Metaknowledge focuses on the pragmatics of
reading and writing, domain knowledge pertains to all of the knowledge that the readers and
writers possess, knowledge about text attributes such as graphophonics, syntax, and text format,
and procedural knowledge. When taught as a reciprocal process, self-correction is the point at
which the student gains new meanings and the recursive quality is most apparent (Blackburn,
1984). At this stage in the process students make changes to improve their piece of writing or re-
read to find new meanings and interpretations from the literature. Graham and Hebert (2011)
suggest that reading instruction can improve writing skills and writing instruction can improve
reading skills, further supporting reading and writing being reciprocal processes. Reading and
writing are both learned activities and the similar cognitive processes are language, structure,
comprehension, and influence (Aulls, 1975; Raphael, Kirschner, & Englert, 1988).
Reading and Writing as Learned Processes
Even from the first stage of writing a relationship can be seen to reading. The building
blocks of writing are the literacy skills that enable students to read. Children learn to understand
print (directionality and names and sounds of the alphabet) and sound (phonological awareness)
and how they coexist. Cabell, Tortorelli, and Gerde (2013) state that a students early writing
directly mirrors their early reading ability and is an excellent predictor of their later reading
success. Students must first master the alphabetic principle, which is apparent in their writing
and the ability to accurately finger point as they read. The knowledge of letters and their sounds
allow students to form and identify words and, later on, master sentences. As they progress,
students writing becomes more conventional and ideas are evolved, replacing the recording of

sounds (Aulls, 1975). Aulls (1975) states that in both processes students must learn a set of
strategies and levels of thinking to decode ideas others have expressed in reading and to express
ideas to others in writing.
Language as a Shared Cognitive Process
The processes of reading and writing both require the reader or writer to understand and
interact with language. Reading and writing are communication activities. Patterson (2005) puts
it well when she is advocating for an increase in creative writing instruction, If our writing
instruction is reduced to how to write a formulaic essay with no mistakes, then we will have
failed to show students how writing- like reading- is a transaction between the reader and the
text (p. 39). In the process of reading, the author is communicating with the reader (the
audience), and in the process of writing, the writer is communicating with their audience (the
reader). This sort of communication further supports the claim that reading and writing are
reciprocal processes. Another important aspect of language in these two processes is the most
literal one, the words. Aulls (1975) makes a strong case for the similarities in language between
reading and writing. In reading the reader has to make meaning of the words being expressed,
yet the authors job is to conjure meaning. Reading provides people with new words, expanding
their vocabulary. This new found vocabulary can be called upon when the person chooses the
words they want to write. A reader learns how other writers use words and a writer has the
power to express their own language.
Structure as a Shared Cognitive Process
Students learn how phrases and sentences can be constructed in various ways through the
reading and writing processes. When a student goes through the writing process they are the
creators of the sentence structure and the overall structure of the content. They develop this

structure through revision and self-correction to create their piece of work. Literature contains
an array of sentence and content structures depending on the genre of the piece. When reading a
work of literature the reader can pick up on these varying structures. A good reader and writer
will pick up on these structures and use them in their own creations. Reading allows writers to
discover structures, forms, and voices (Lindsey, 1996). Syntactic and semantic structures are
used to give meaning to the overall context and integrating instruction around similar structures
can build reading comprehension and writing ability (Aulls, 1975).
Comprehension as a Shared Cognitive Process
Reading and writing are both important processes to gain meaning and express meaning
through print. Aulls (1975) argues that reading is a necessity in the writing process because the
writer must read while writing in order to monitor oneself and revise. The writer and reader both
initially project meaning, rereading is performed to continue the direction of thinking about the
meaning intended, and then the writer and reader weight what has been said against what was
intended. Writing about literature can assist in developing meaning of the text. Graham and
Hebert (2011) suggest that writing about text can enhance comprehension by fostering
explicitness, organizing ideas into relationships among ideas, facilitating reflection, fostering a
personal involvement with the text, and transforming the text into the writers own words.
Blackburn (1984) brings up the point that discussion and questioning both take place in reading
and writing, both including process, information, and evaluation questions, which should lead to
further comprehension of the text and stimulate the reader with a new writing topic. When
students create their own literature it should encourage them to be more insightful when reading
literature created by someone else.
Reading and Writing as Influential Processes

One of the most exciting aspects about the connection between reading and writing is the
influence both processes have on one another. Since they are reciprocal processes they naturally
inspire and guide each other. Reading about a topic can influence what a student writes about.
When students read and internalize the sound, genre, structure, and complexity of good writing
they will become creators of more complex texts, and as they transform into more complex
authors they will in turn have improved comprehension and engagement when reading
(Broekkamp, Janssen, & Van Den Bergh, 2009; Mayo, 2000). Reading can act as a resource for
writers to gain new vocabulary words, experiences, and topics (Aulls, 1975).
Research on the Reading/Writing Connection
A multitude of observations have been conducted throughout the years that support the
claim that reading and writing are connected activities. To support this claim, two studies will be
discussed that both used empirical data to analyze how closely connected reading and writing are
and the effects they have on students.
Broekkamp, Janssen, and Van Den Bergh (2009) conducted a study with nineteen
eleventh grade students. Eleven of those students were known to be good readers and eight were
known to be poor readers. Each student read four literary texts and then wrote reading
responses. The responses were judged by multiple panels of independent expert judges. Using
empirical data, the results showed that creative writing has a positive influence on reading and
reading creative writing literature also has a positive influence on writing. Creative writing was
found to foster engagement and motivation in literature classrooms. The students became
familiar with the text style, structure, and other text qualities which carried over in their writing.
Graham and Hebert (2011) created a meta-analysis that included students in grades 1-12.
The students wrote about what they read, were taught to write, or increased how much they were

writing on a daily basis. It was found that for all students (general readers and writers as well as
weaker readers and writers) writing about the material they read improved their comprehension
of it. They found that the amount of writing students did had a positive impact on how well
students in grades 1-6 read because they were learning about reading through the process of
writing. Through the empirical data collected, Graham and Hebert (2011) posit that teaching
writing improves reading.
How to Integrate Reading and Writing in the Classroom
The first step in teaching students the recursive processes of reading and writing is using
explicit language and activating prior knowledge. Students need information to be relevant to
them in order to understand the importance of it. Therefore, how and why reading and writing
are similar processes should be explicitly explained to them in order for them to make the
connection between the two (Anderson & Briggs, 2011; Mayo, 2000). Anderson and Briggs
(2011) have found that when using explicit language to teach reading and writing as reciprocal
processes struggling learners have a better understanding of the instruction. Prior knowledge can
serve as a powerful tool for making a connection to literature or creating a piece of literature.
Students use their background knowledge and experiences as a basis for reading and writing
(Anderson & Briggs, 2011; Lindsey, 1996; Raphael, Kirschner, & Englert, 1988). Writing is
often stimulated by the feelings of the writer and emotions summoned through reading is
governed by the background experiences of the reader (Aulls, 1975). A students prior
knowledge and experiences relate to how much they comprehend and pay attention to while
reading. A few ways to activate prior knowledge and experience before reading are through
autobiographical writing, response journals, and class discussions (Lindsey, 1996).
Autobiographical writing enables students to connect the narrative world with their world,

response journals allow students to connect and reflect, and class discussions allow students to
question and converse about complex ideas.
There are several other ways in which reading and writing can be integrated in the
classroom. Mayo (2000) states that teachers should have a variety of literature at hand for
students to refer to while writing. The literature serves as examples for the students and can
inspire their writing style and topic. She says, The key to success in bringing writing and
reading together in the classroom may be as simple as reading shorter texts, using texts that
students can imagine themselves writing, looking closely at writing, and talking about writers
decisions (Mayo, 2000, p.76). Raphael, Kirschner, and Englert (1988) promote expository
writing in the classroom. It helps all students learn about the writing process and how reading to
gather information about a topic is used in writing expository pieces. They also learn about the
strategies and styles authors use in creating informational texts which they imitate in their own
writing. Having students keep diaries of their everyday life was an activity that Aulls (1975)
found to be beneficial to both his average learners and bilingual students with depressed reading
abilities. After reading aloud excerpts from the diaries in class the students put together a
booklet with their writings and were later asked to have the booklet published. Aulls (1975) saw
readers that were reading two years below grade level showing interest in reading because of
their new identity as a writer. Creative writing should be encouraged in the classroom in order to
engage students in literature (Patterson, 2005). According to Patterson (2005) students should be
allowed to live the experience of artistic literature without corrections or mistakes. By creating
literature students will be more inclined to read the literature of others. Pattersons (2005)
thoughts on creative writing are statistically supported by the study conducted by Broekkamp et
al. (2009), as previously discussed.

Through the discussion of reading and writing being reciprocal cognitive processes,
research conducted on the topic, and ways to integrate reading and writing in the classroom, it is
evident that there is a strong connection between the two activities. Reading and writing
strengthen, improve, and mold one another. They are both learned activities with similar
processes in language, structure, comprehension, and influence. Adequate instruction of one
activity will have a positive influence on the other. Education has evolved over the years to
include simultaneous and integrated instruction of both reading and writing in the classroom.
Teaching reading and writing as mutual subjects has proved to be beneficial to students literacy
As an educator and student of reading education it is important to know how different
areas of instruction are connected. Honestly, I knew that these two areas where related and
important to one another, but I didnt know just how important until I researched the topic. The
peer-reviewed articles I discuss opened a floodgate of information on how reading and writing
are connected and the importance of their connection. Once reading these articles I was able to
fully wrap my mind around how reading and writing are reciprocal processes. They reminded
me of yin and yang; they are separate activities but the actions of one will influence the other and
they need to be kept in perfect harmony to create developmental improvement in literacy among
the students. I now cant believe that the two activities were once seen as unrelated content
Activating and prior knowledge and using explicit language are two aspects of the
reading and writing processes that stood out to me. First, a student must understand the

importance of the information they are learning or the activity they are partaking in to gain
knowledge from it; they cannot just be told that it is important. Once a student understands the
relevance activating prior knowledge connects the student to the experience, whether it be
reading or writing. I know from personal experience that I am more invested and engaged in
something that is directly related to my life. I noticed throughout my research that when students
are connected with the reading or writing process they will think deeper about the ideas and
concepts presented or formulated, resulting in a higher level of comprehension. Using writing or
reading activities to do this is genius.
In my own classroom I am going to implement the diary writing activity that was used by
Aulls (1975). It not only required the students to participate in both the reading and writing
processes, but it was also the perfect way to stimulate prior knowledge, experiences, and explicit
Reading and writing instruction in the classroom are separate activities to this day. As
mentioned earlier, they are similar but still separate. While it is important to teach both
activities, there should be a greater push to integrate the two processes more in education. In
doing so, the teacher and students will only reap positive rewards.



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Blackburn, E. (1984). Common ground: Developing relationships between reading and writing.
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Broekkamp, H, Janssen, T, Van Den Bergh, H. (2009). Is there a relationship between literature
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