Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tipsy Tuesday

You probably know that reading makes you smarter, and the more reading you do, the better. In a paper called "What Reading Does for the Mind," Anne E. Cunningham, associate professor of cognition and development at the University of California, Berkeley, makes the case that reading:

  • increases vocabulary more than talking or direct teaching;
  • substantially boosts general knowledge while decreasing the likelihood that misinformation will be absorbed; and
  • helps keep our memory and reasoning abilities intact as we age.
Here's what I find most interesting: Cunningham's paper refers to studies that ranked the frequency of 86,741 English words. (A word's frequency is how often it appears in speech or writing. In speech, the average word frequency is 400--meaning, when we talk, we're likely to use a relatively small set of frequently occurring words.)

However, words in children's book--which people think of as being simple little things, right?--have an average frequency of 627. Which means that the language in a children's book is likely to be more sophisticated than your average conversation.

Interested yet?

Between fourth and sixth grades, kids are likely to have encountered all but rare words--those ranked below 10,000 on the list. (And I wonder what words those are...) The only way for kids to learn those rare words is to encounter them, and they're far more likely to do that on the printed page.

Check these stats: In a newspaper, 68.3 words per 1,000 are considered "rare." In children's literature, 30.9 per 1,000 are rare. On prime-time TV, it sinks to 22.7. (Hulu is right--TV is turning our brains into mushy-mush! LOL) In conversations between college graduates, it's even lower--17.3 words per 1,000. So even if a child is talking with well-educated parents, his/her best shot at expanding his/her vocabulary is by reading.

Next Tuesday we'll pick up with the second bulleted point: how reading boosts general knowledge.

Now, on to really important matters, the winner of my extra Heat Wave book...

Wait for it...


The winner is...


Colleen, please email me with your snail mail addy and I'll get the book and some other goodies out to you as soon as possible.


Colleen Love said...

Wow! Really? It's my lucky day! Thank you so much! Seeing my name in red totally caught me off guard! lol... I was scrolling down slowly while reading and- wow! hehe
Aww, thank you so much, Sherrill!

I really loved your post today. We homeschool our kids and we do a lot of reading. It amazes me all the time how easily a child learns. They are sponges to their environments and what they learn reflects back to you very quickly! I love it when they use words and conversation that make people stop and take notice.:)

Awesome post today!
Thank you very much for the prize. I will email you with my schtuff!


Sherrill Quinn said...

LOL You're welcome, Colleen!

This study has been interesting to me, though it's something I've come to recognize on my own--most well-read people I've met have struck me by how intelligent they are.