Stephen Krashen, author of The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research (first published by Libraries Unlimited in 1993 and now available in an updated second edition), has some interesting things to say about reading, writing, and the relationship between them. When English learners read for pleasure, Krashen writes, they develop the competence they need to move from a beginning level to the point where they can use English for such purposes as academic study, science, business, and so on. When they read for fun, they can improve their English without classes, without teachers, without studying, and even without people to talk to. (p. 84)
Krashen believes that "free voluntary reading," or FVR, positively affects vocabulary size, spelling, reading comprehension, grammar, and writing style; in fact, research indicates that it is better than direct instruction in improving these areas. (pp. 12-13)
In fact, Krashen writes, "writing style does not come from writing, but from reading." (p. 72) He surmises that although research cannot specify exactly what makes writing "good", "it is...sensible to suppose that writing style is not consciously learned, but is largely absorbed, or subconsciously acquired, from reading."
He notes that people read much more than they write: as much as 150 times as much, speaking of educated adults in the United States, and he further states that the amount of extracurricular (pleasure) reading one does is a strong predictor of English proficiency as measured by the TOEFL, whereas the amount one writes does not correlate with proficiency. This makes sense, according to Krashen, since "language acquisition comes from input, not output, from comprehension, not production." (pp. 74-76)
Television, Krashen says, "does not provide high quality linguistic input" because it is less complex than the language of books, although he admits that TV watching may encourage reading through dramatizations of books. This is because TV uses a small word base, probably under 5,000 words. Compare this to the 3,000+ vocabulary of an average American first-grader.). (pp. 78-81)
Go read a book!
[Page numbers refer to the first paperback edition.]