Which came first the chicken or the egg?
Which came first reading or writing?
We think that the symbols of what may have been the first writing system were probably pictograms. This would have been a pot or a fish or an animal. A fish with an open jaw may have introduced the concepts of hunger or even eating.
The problem came when early man and early women wanted to express an abstract thought. In text speak we say `b4’ for before. If one of the early authors had wanted to express the idea of before he or she may have had to draw a bee and then make the signs for four.
What we do know is that most of the major civilisations developed writing – and then reading – over a long period of time. The alphabet was probably influenced by the empires in Egypt and Mesopotamia. But all this has happened only in the last four thousand years.
So when I advised a very bright nine year old today to read some `hard’ books to develop his vocabulary I wonder if I did the right thing. After all what is the point of reading hard books if you don’t know what the words mean.
Possibly what I should have encouraged the boy to do was to write a series of short little stories. He should then have used his thesaurus to add an enriched vocabulary to his story. This could possibly have taught him far more new words than hoping to pick up a random vocabulary of `hard’ words from a `hard’ book.
So we are back again to the conundrum which comes reading stimulating books or writing stimulating stories. Either way the boy will need to use his dictionary or thesaurus to develop his reading vocabulary.