The First Rule for Writers: Read

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May 27, 2011 by WITS Editor

White Teeth

Image by life serial via Flickr

Zadie Smith, a British novelist whose first novel White Teeth was an instant bestseller when published in 2000, shared with Guardian some of her rules for writers, and I was struck with her first one:

When still a child, make sure you  read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

As a mother, teacher, and writer, I want my children and students to love writing as much as I do.   Sometimes, though, I fall headfirst into the black hole of assessments and testing.  I become obsessed with achievement as the district or the state defines and measures it.  I immerse myself in “best practices.”   I lose sight of the simplicity of Zadie Smith’s first rule for writers: read.

When I realize I’m in this black hole, I head directly to the library.  I browse the shelves for a good book to share with my students.  Then, I choose one for myself.  When I read for pleasure, I remember what I loved as child, which always allows me to write in more profound ways than a test question ever will.

by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

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Writers in the Schools (WITS)


Writers in the Schools (WITS) is the #1 arts education organization in Texas. With 80 writers and educators on staff, WITS reaches over 23,000 students a year in classrooms, community centers, museums, parks, and hospitals.

The glory of WITS is best expressed by the students--in their own words -- so this blog features essays, stories, and poems that were created by K-12 students in our program. All material (c) Writers in the Schools 2007-2013. If you wish to republish this work, please credit both the organization and the author and link back to this site. This material may not be used in commercial ventures of any kind.

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