Determining whether writing or reading is better is difficult; neither exists without the other, and it is easy to end up in a chicken-or-the-egg style paradox before long. Many of the arguments for each are subjective and differ from person to person, and it is near impossible to argue for one without also defending the other. In the end, however, reading is better than writing because it allows us to absorb information, actually helps teach us how to write (especially essays i.e. visual analysis essays or argumentative ones) and allows us to access the viewpoints of others.
Most education occurs through reading. There are textbooks, articles, and scholarly works on almost every topic imaginable. And that is how humans seem to have decided to learn. What is the first thing a person does when they become interested in something? They look it up and read about it. Some things can only be learned about from books, others can really only come through years of practice and experience, but there’s always something to read about it before beginning. According to Patricia Wilkins, a professional writer at SolidEssay.com, “school systems use textbooks and reading passages, teachers use slideshows, all because reading is the fastest method of absorbing information.” It may not be the most effective method for everyone, all the time, but it lays down a foundation for whatever comes next.
Reading is also essential to learning to write in the first place. When a child learns to read, they are taught letter sounds, spelling, and punctuation. It would be quite difficult to write without grasping these concepts in the first place. Reading the works of others teaches sentence structure, vocabulary, usage, tone, and scores of other things that can help writing to be more effective and generally correct. Although writing skills are taught in schools, many students already know what they are learning because they have seen it done before. They know its effects and uses because they have seen it work on themselves. When analyzing a text, teachers tell them to make lists of words with certain tones or connotations. No one teaches that to the students. They already know. Most highly regarded authors are avid readers themselves. Reading teaches writing through example.
Lastly, reading encourages imagination. Whether fictional or informational, books and other written mediums require readers to construct images, sounds, and even entire people in their minds. This is what makes fiction so exciting, and can turn research into a life-changing experience. Some may claim that writing does the same, but in order to really grasp the position a character is coming from, the author has to do research first. Along with developing this capacity for imagination comes empathy and compassion. Fiction, especially, helps to develop this capacity. When one is already accustomed to imagining themselves living someone else’s life, it can easily become second nature to practice this with real people, as well. “Reading has the power to take a person and put them in someone else’s shoes in a way that few other activities can,” notes Peter Plein, Head of Academic Writing at MLA Formatted Outline.
Reading and writing are inextricably connected. One cannot exist without the other, and knowledge of both enhances the ability to do either. However, when it comes down to it, reading is the more beneficial of the two. It has the ability to teach where writing has only the ability to summarize and synthesize. Non-fiction can educate about any topic on the face of the planet, while fiction can teach empathy and show the reader another perspective in life. Reading either genre regularly enough can also teach the reader to write better. Without knowing it, the writing style of various authors is absorbed, and the reader becomes familiar with effective communication. Reading is one of the most important things a person can do.