English – Long-term vocabulary benefits from ‘reading for pleasure’ in childhood – Comment

In today’s Bookseller Briefing (w/e 14 November) on the blog, the headline reads ‘IoE study shows reading for pleasure boosts vocabulary’.

Am I being curmudgeonly, or should I have created a ‘Bleedin’ Obvious’ page and posted the IoE article there instead?

Back in the 1970s I remember writing what was called a Use of English (UoE) exam. This was set by the Associated Examining Board (AEB) in the UK, and designed, mainly, for those students whose strengths were in the sciences, and who, it was recognised, were perhaps not that great at (or interested in) English, but needed to attain a certain proficiency to be able to communicate well in life.

At the time it was generally recognised or accepted that if your interests lay in the sciences, then you may not have been too interested in reading for pleasure, or if you were, you weren’t that likely to enjoy ‘literature’.

Science students hated the exam because

a) as UoE was not a formal qualification (like O, M or A Levels) it was a waste of time …

b) English wasn’t interesting, so it was a waste of time …

c) it took away valuable study time from proper exams (like Maths, Physics and Chem) so it was a waste of time …

And of course, for someone like myself studying proper English it was equally a waste of time for reasons (a) and (c) above … but substitute History, Geoggo, Economics etc instead of Maths, Physics and Chem …

The Institute of Education (IoE) is a fine institution (and, from my Thorolds days, a good client), and their research makes interesting reading, but does this study not fall into the broad category of ‘get a good night’s sleep; eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg; moderate your consumption of red meat, fatty foods, and alcohol; exercise regularly’ etc etc? In other words, stuff we know instinctively we should (or should not) do … but don’t (or do) do …

Back in January I posted ‘Would you employ someone with poor spelling or grammar’ on the English tab (where I’ve also posted the IoE article). From your experience, do you think that the emails you receive, with egregious spelling and grammar, were penned by readers-for-pleasure?

I’m as guilty as the next person at not having read enough this year and I speak to myself when I say that now, more than ever, we need to make a few modest lifestyle changes and adopt (or strengthen) some of the values we learned from our parents, one of which being reading for pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

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