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Review Finds Learning to Write Helps Kids Learn to Read

Guest post by Jackie Zubrzycki

Does learning to write help kids learn to read? As you may have picked up from the title of this blog post, research indicates that it does.

In the winter edition of the Harvard Educational Review, researchers Steve Graham and Michael Hebert of Vanderbilt University write about their meta-analysis of 95 studies of literacy. They found that the research largely agrees: When students receive writing instruction, their reading fluency and comprehension seem to improve.

Graham and Hebert asked three questions:


    • Does writing about material enhance students' comprehension of text?
    • Does writing skills instruction strengthen students' reading skills?
    • Does increasing how much students write improve how well they read?

The researchers found that the answer to all three questions was yes: All relevant studies indicated that writing-skills instruction (which includes spelling and sentence formation) and increasing the amount students wrote strengthened reading skills, and 94 percent of relevant studies showed that writing about academic material increased students' comprehension of it.

The researchers note a need for further research into the effect of writing instruction on reading, and say that many students do not write frequently in the classroom. They say reading skills are especially important in our word-filled world, in which people need to understand text in contexts that range from Facebook posts to instructions on bottles of medicine to legal documents. Yet many students—and adults—have not fully mastered reading.

Graham and Herbert conducted a similar review of the literature for a report for the Carnegie Foundation in 2010.

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