Passion for living language;Obituary;People

21st May 1999 at 01:00
Helen Arnold was an authority on children's language and reading and was at the time of her death earlier this year president of the UK Reading Association.

She is perhaps best known for her work in the 1970s. With Vera Southgate she conducted two of the key inquiries into reading - the Schools Council projects: Extending beginning reading and The effective use of reading.

Extending beginning reading, largely written by Helen and first published in 1981 by Heinemann Educational, is still in demand and she went on to to develop a Diagnostic Reading Record for use in the classroom.

Helen Orissa Arnold (nee Chaplin) was born in south-west London, attended Twickenham county girls' school and qualified with a BA in English and a postgraduate certificate in education from King's College, London.

She joined the staff at Homerton College, Cambridge, in 1965 before being seconded to the Schools Council. She was the Suffolk English adviser from 1976 to 1982.

She returned to Homerton where her influence on the teaching of reading was to be far-reaching. Her fine academic mind combined with a passion for her subject made her lectures unmissable.

She became fascinated with bookies' discourse (her village Westley Waterless was close to Newmarket) and her reflections on that led us, in the National Year of Reading, to look at football fanzines and fishing-club magazines as part of a community's living language. She was still working for Homerton when she died, in her seventies.

Helen had recently turned her attention to the National Literacy Strategy, leading a project for UKRA called "Hourwatch", in which teachers fed back information about the literacy hour.

There will be a memorial for Helen on Saturday June 5 at 2.30pm in the Combination Room at Homerton College, Cambridge, when all will be welcome to join in a celebration of her life.

Holly Anderson is joint language co-ordinator at Homerton College

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