Reading and Writing: Tied for First Place

This week’s assignment for 6300 Understanding Writing as a Process course is to read and locate ourselves among the range of voices in Chapter 1 titled “Bad Ideas About What Good Writing Is” from the book Bad Ideas About Writing by Cheryl E. Ball and Drew M. Loewe.  I explored perspectives associated with the section titled “Reading and Writing Are Not Connected” by Ellen C. Carillo.  My interest was sparked by assigned reading of The Rise of Writing by Deborah Brandt in Dr. Laura McGrath’s 6650 Introduction to Studies course.

Carillo and Brandt both lament a disconnect between reading and writing, by privileging one over the other, in America’s education system.  However, they present opposing arguments to underscore the idea.  After exploring each argument in comparison to my own literacy experience, I’m not convinced disconnect and privileging exist.

Carillo argues “…colleges and universities largely privilege writing over reading.  This hierarchy is evidenced by the universal first-year writing requirement in American colleges and universities, as well as by writing across the curriculum programs (Ball and Loewe 39).”  To support her argument, Carillo reports: “Although it took decades for elementary school teachers and curricula developers to realize that young children need not learn how to read before they learned how to write, language arts instructors now teach reading and writing alongside each other.  They do so because research has shown that students learn to read and write better when they are instructed in both simultaneously (Ball and Loewe 38).”  In recognition of that shift, Carillo declares teaching literacy at colleges and universities should be approached with reading and writing as connected practices for first-year writing students.

Brandt, on the other hand, presents a contrasting argument.  “Through most of the recent history of mass schooling writing has been forced under the wing of reading, domesticated as a school-based subject, and made to function companionably within and in support of the ideological projects of mass reading (Brandt 89).”  To frame her stance, Brandt claims teaching of reading preceded teaching of writing in elementary classrooms for literacy development.  She relates that researchers emphasize reading and writing develop from a common collective of linguistic sources.  Brandt underscores the research by declaring “…there can be no reading without writing and no writing without reading (Brandt 89).”

Carillo and Brandt view the topic through different lenses. Now, I bring my own lens to suggest reading and writing are not disconnected nor privileged one over the other in colleges and universities.

I object to Carillo’s statement “…if students are not given the opportunity to work on their reading throughout their college careers, they may struggle analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating all that surrounds them since comprehension is a crucial step toward those more advanced interpretive practices (Ball and Loewe 39).”  I beg to differ by saying that students are given the opportunity to work on their reading throughout their college careers.  Across curriculum, teachers relate expectations regarding how material is to be read and what students are to extract from close reading of material, etc., before they are assigned to write essays on what was read.

I see no reason for more teaching of reading for first-year students.  My elementary, junior high, and high school English teachers placed emphasis on reading for comprehension.  We were taught not to simply call words, but to be sure and understand what we were reading.  I can’t count the times (in elementary school) we had to read aloud and relate what we had read in our own words.  By the time we reached high school, we were adept at close reading, though we weren’t privy to that terminology.  Several tips for college reading and writing may be viewed at Kent State University’s website.

As for Brandt’s argument, I wholeheartedly disagree with her statement: “Yet writing has never attained the same formative and morally wholesome status as reading (Brandt 89).” Huh?! Seriously?!  Since when, exactly?!  Is not writing revered with prizes for authorship and published works?  In my world, the interconnectedness and complementarity of reading and writing has never been questioned.

In my own university experience, reading is continually developed along with writing.  Teachers evaluate rhetorical essays, reflection essays, research papers, and other academic writing to assess whether students understand assigned readings.  Students are given opportunities to revise their work based on those evaluations.  I’m sure resources, such as tutors, are available for first-year students who require a higher level of reading proficiency.  If teaching of reading is added to the curriculum, would we not then need a reading center to correlate with the writing center to enhance first-year student performance? Just saying….

Ball, Cheryl E., and Drew M. Loewe. Bad Ideas About Writing. West Virginia U, 2017. Web.  07 Oct. 2018. <>.

Brandt, Deborah. The Rise of Writing: Redefining Mass Literacy. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

One Reply to “Reading and Writing: Tied for First Place”

  1. Hey Arlene,

    I’m glad you chose this section of chapter 1. I’ve never been much of a reader. I tend not to tell people this, but I actually don’t like reading at all. I think that if I did read more, though, I’d be a better writer. I guess I’m lazy. I think that most people use reading to enhance their writing not just out of inspiration from what they read to guide their own compositions, but also to broaden their horizons as writers. While I hate reading, I know how important it is to assign good readings to students and require that they use scholarly sources while writing their compositions. It’s so much more than reference. While I can’t show the tenacity to voluntarily open a book every once in a while, I know how important it is. Great post, Arlene!


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