“I can’t talk about reading without talking about writing. And I can’t talk about writing without talking about reading.” How many times have those words slipped past my lips? How many times have I justified the meandering focus of a lesson plan with those two sentences?
The answer is a lot. Like, almost-every-day a lot.
In truth, it’s because reading and writing are synonyms. Dictionary definitions aside, reading and writing are the exact same thing. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flack for suggesting it because I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that asserting such a notion is, uh, controversial.
I can hear it now: The Readers up at arms about how they aren’t Writers (but wish they were), and the Writers shouting about how what they do is more than just reading. To which I say: Just keep telling yourself that.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in school supposedly learning how to be a better writer, and also as someone who has spent a lot of time teaching reading and writing…you really have to believe me when I say they’re the same thing. You cannot teach one without the other. It’s impossible.
Our brains are big, beautiful things. If our brains were hardwired differently, maybe reading and writing wouldn’t be the same. But they’re not. Our brains look for connections like heat-seeking missiles look for fire. And they long to interact with and manipulate the world around them. Curiosity is not a thing we’ve ever learned.
If you teach a person how to read, it’s only a matter of time before they give writing a try. And if you teach them how to write, again, they’ll eventually read. At this point, I’m sure someone is snarkily thinking that to write, you must be capable of reading. Bullshit. I learned how to read when I was four. The first story I wrote came about at two-and-a-half. Stop thinking so literally, haters.
Which brings us to the third synonym of the Writing Trifecta (Trinity?). And that word is story.
Story is the noun; reading and writing are the verbs. We all know you can verb a noun all day long. But can you noun a verb?
Storytelling is an art form, and like all other art forms, it’s the oldest art form. While art is often dismissed as frivolous an unnecessary, the world we know today and the societies our species has built rest on the shoulders of our abilities to do and make art. Art is our basic form of communication, our universal language.
Get a message. Make a message. Send a message. It’s all messages. And that’s all reading and writing are. They’re the messages around the stories we tell. An unread message is a message never sent, a message never written.