On The Wisdom of Wide Reading

Now that you have decided to go to college, one of the most significant things you can do

Now that you have decided to go to college, one of the most significant things you can do to enhance your success, is to engage in wide reading.  While there is some debate as to the exact number of words in the English language many experts believe the total to be in excess of one million.

Research indicates that the more words you use, the more words you can employ in your thinking. Irrespective of the language used, all people have speaking, writing, and thinking or understanding vocabularies.

According to many linguists, the typical college graduate has a speaking vocabulary of approximately ten thousand words and an understanding vocabulary of about thirty thousand to fifty thousand words depending upon one’s occupation. The writing vocabulary of a typical college graduate is approximately six thousand to seven thousand words. And too, the typical high school graduates vocabularies are less than half of those of the typical college.  So it behooves the potential college student to continually work to expand personal vocabularies.

The best way to increase your vocabularies is to engage in wide reading in a variety of subject matters. The reading materials you select should be those that make you stretch just a bit. That is, choose reading materials which give you a bit of a challenge. And, in order to meet that challenge, you should stop every three or four pages to mentally review what you’ve just read.

There is another tip you may want to use when selecting reading materials to expand your vocabularies.  That is, the more polysyllabic words a given reading selection has, the more difficult the material.  Generally, the book or article which has the greatest number of words with three or more syllables contains the most difficult reading material.

Here is an example intended to clarify the statement above.  For instance, you can say fowl of similar plumage tend to congregate or you can say, birds of a feather flock together. Obviously, the first homily is more difficult to understand than the second even though both have approximately the same meaning.


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