Problem letter

Reading to write

Dear Director of the University Writing Program at UC Davis,

I would like to share my objections to the current reading schedule in our writing classes. Before I came to this university, I thought that writing classes would focus on profound language development, so students would be asked to read more literature in order to gather inspiration and guidance. However, I have not found this to be the case. Specifically, I have taken four writing classes so far and they have been very similar — each explaining excessive knowledge of concepts, but lacking reading assignments. In this model, talking about writing skills is given precedence over reading in order to enrich one’s intuitive knowledge of the language. In my previous writing classes, we covered topics about genres, thesis statements, paragraph structure, and other technical elements. Unfortunately, none of these skills can effectively improve our intuitive knowledge about writing. Therefore, I believe that reading ability should be incorporated into a discussion of writing, because while basic writing skills can be taught, it’s impossible to teach the art of fine writing. Further, I argue that the learning process of intuitive writing is only fully achieved through extensive reading.


The first point to consider is that mimicking those who have mastered the art of writing will allow one to become a better writer. For an international student like me, the most efficient strategy to learn and perfect a foreign language is mimicking and memorizing. When I was in high school, I would mimic the tone and style of famous authors, because it is hard to come up with interesting and beautiful writing on my own. Usually after I read my favorite authors, I was inspired, and memorized their wording and style for later use. The next time I would write, I would use the new words and phrases I had learned as a reference and put them into my sentences. Thus, as a result of reading good books, readers are equipped with knowledge to improve their writing.


Another issue in this argument is that reading good books is an efficient form of communication that allows readers to walk with the wise writers. When readers learn from other talents, their own wisdom will increase. For example, the best way to learn new words is to see them in the context of good writing. As a result of reading the context, the meaning of words will be easy to recall for later use. The process of reading and being exposed to new words and turns of phrase is similar to learning vocabulary from elders or educated peers. We create a pool of variety, get new ideas from several sources, and they become part of the body of knowledge that we can draw from when writing. To use a metaphor to explain the situation, the human brain is like a sponge. We soak up everything we observe and experience throughout our lives. What we read is no exception; if we immerse ourselves in good writing, the authors’ wisdom will become ours. Reading helps us to learn from someone who is superior in wisdom, influential in literature, and better at writing. It makes sense that eventually, exposure to those great authors will shape and influence our own writing.


My third argument for the benefit of reading for writing ability is that reading keeps one well informed with knowledge and news. Even a writer with superior skills cannot compose a great work without having any raw materials. The acquisition of concepts is not enough to put to practical use. Rather, a good article needs to have clear examples and supporting details. If our writing classes assign more readings from aspects of history, culture, entertainment, and technology, we will have better materials from which to draw. For instance, when I took the SAT writing exam for the first time, I didn’t know how to write according to the prompt at all. After I completely failed my first SAT, I began to analyze the writing section and found that the prompt can generally be divided into several topics: conformity and leadership, heroes, integrity, technologies, success and motivation. I began to read many books and made note of stories that can be used as examples associated with these categories. For instance, when I read Les Misrables, I knew that Jean Valjean would be a useful example for topics about “ heroes.” In addition, when I saw a movie about Pyramid schemes, I read a story about Charles Ponzi and rewrote it as an example for “integrity”. I took my time to practice writing through constantly reading more material. Reading turns out to be much helpful than just practicing writing without any reading. As evidence for this claim, I scored 10/12 on my second SAT. By reading, I made the most significant improvement ever.


I hope I have convinced you to consider incorporating more reading of established authors in the writing classes at this university. Not only does reading often and critically enhance one’s vocabulary and expose one to superior ideas, it also helps to develop an intuitive sense of the grammar and structure of a language. As stated in a quote by Stephen King “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” Reading is what one can achieve on a daily basis, and the awareness of the great effort our school goes to in order to enrich our opportunities will make students learn profoundly. Not only will students develop positive habits in reading good books, but also they will be inspired to continue this learning process themselves. Therefore, the purpose of the writing classes can be fully achieved. I hope my suggestion is useful, and thank you for your consideration.



Huang Liqing













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