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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