This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

As long as he's reading: a rant.

'As long as he's reading,' parents say.

What they mean is: as long as he's reading then he'll probably scramble himself into enough education to survive in the Big Wide World.

And, do you know something? They're probably right. Professor Alice Sullivan, lead author of a report from the Institute of Education at London University, has published a thirty two year study (that's thirty two years so far - I do hope they haven't given it up) and it's found that avid childhood readers have far larger vocabularies than those who never read for pleasure, and that this effect carries on right into middle age.

(Yes, I'm assuming here that knowing lots of words helps with surviving in the Big Wide World.)

So far, so predictable. But the report came up with another finding that was particularly interesting.

The IOE study looked at the types of thing people were reading, and measured the effect that had on vocabularies, too.

The greatest improvement between the ages of 16 and 42 was made by people who read literary 'highbrow' fiction.

Readers of quality newspapers made the next biggest improvement, and they, again predictably, learnt quite a lot more words than those who read no newspaper at all.

But - and this is the intriguing bit - the people who did worst of all in vocabulary tests at the age of 42 were those who read low-quality 'tabloid' newspapers.

I suppose the last thing a tabloid newspaper does is foster curiosity and intellectual exploration, so I suppose this shouldn't really be much of a surprise.

But what does this mean for all those parents who take comfort in the oh-so-easy as long as he's reading?

I think it means they should take up a different slogan: variety is the spice of life.

Word To Use Today: tabloid. This rather nasty word denotes a small-sized newspaper with a sensational style. The word was coined in the 1900s as a trademark for a medicine in tablet form.

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