Reading like a Writer


Usually when I use this term, I am speaking of the act of bringing your writing self to the page – paying attention to the author’s craft so as to emulate it in your own writing. Yesterday I heard Kelly Gallagher speak. His most recent book, Readicide, is phenomenal. So much of what he says makes a great deal of sense to me, including what he calls “first draft reading”. I almost always read non-fiction text at least twice. The first is to get the lay of the land or schema. I might also come away with a pretty good feel for what the author is saying. The second time through is to really synthesize the author’s message as well as to attend to style and language. These might not be achieved at this stage, but if it’s something I have to read, I’ll give it another go or two.

I never thought of describing my process as drafts of reading, but that’s just what they are. Notice I said that if I have to read, I’ll reread again if necessary. If I’m not compelled to read a particular piece for a class and the text is that dense, I’d probably abandon it instead. Our kids rarely have that luxury. So let’s show them how to do a close reading of a text as Gallagher suggests. They will get much more of the particular text we’re using and will bring this strategy to future readings of difficult pieces. For more on Gallagher and his books, go to

Reading like a writer means more than trying on someone else’s parallel structure or use of enjambment. Being willing to revise our understanding of text (and teaching) is just as important.

Did I mention Kelly’s a Writing Project person?

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment