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Does EastEnders block expression?

I write in support of the points made by Alan Gibbons ("Writing: the real test of literacy", TES, April 27).

Children are unable to express their ideas in writing unless the vocabulary exists in their heads; the only way in which this will be achieved is by extensive reading and discussion of progressively more complex texts.

It takes a great deal of exposure to new vocabulary in context before a child gradually absorbs the meaning, then includes it in hisher spoken vocabulary and eventually uses it in writing.

I have noticed that many children struggle to include adjectives and adverbs in their written work and I feel that this reflects the language which surrounds them, particularly on television. Programmes such as EstEnders have little need for stimulating descriptive vocabulary because they are so visual. For many children TV is their main source of language exposure, especially if they come from a language-impoverished background. We know from various studies that children are reading less independently in their spare time.

In response to the literacy strategy many schools have adopted commercial literacy schemes that emphasise a fragmentary approach to the study of texts. While this approach may have achieved an improvement in reading scores, it is ultimately an unsatisfying diet that does not engender a love of reading, so necessary to really extend a child's vocabulary.

Sue Morgan

80 Potley Hill Road, Yateley, Hants

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