In my 10+ years of tutoring, I have noticed that the students who are in big trouble when it comes to the SAT Verbal or GRE Verbal sections are those who tell me they do not read a lot of books. Some people like reading more than others, it’s true. But almost everyone can find some kind of reading material that interests them, even if it’s nonfiction or a magazine focused on a particular craft or hobby. When researchers consider how it is that children and adolescents learn the tens of thousands of words that they know by the end of high school, they cannot help but conclude that it must be through exposure to that vocabulary in family conversations, school work, and most of all, extensive individual reading.
Last year, I tutored a delightful elementary school student who was very bright but was starting to get lower grades in school. She was in 5th grade, and when I asked whether she read a lot of books, she said no. I asked her if she had ever read a book she really liked, and she told me about a particular one she had read. I worked with her grandmother (who had hired me as a tutor) to find similar books and get them for her from the library. However, it was still hard to pry her away from the computer and get her to finish a book.
If you or your kids are trying to read more but are having trouble making it part of your schedule, here are a few tips. First, find something that really interests you. Work with a librarian if you’re not sure where to start. Or look for books that have won awards, such as the Newbury Medal, the Pulitzer Prize, or Second, join or create a book club if you need deadlines, motivation, and a social context for your reading. You can also post comments on your books and share them with others through sites like http://www.bookcrossing.com, http://www.bookmooch.com, or http://www.goodreads.com. If you have kids, try hiring a WyzAnt tutor to organize a book club for them and their friends! Third, create comfortable spaces and time for reading. If everyone in the family sits together and reads, it will be easier for kids to get into it. Put a funky lamp near a comfortable chair or couch – these set-ups always draw me into my current novel. Or put a hammock in a shady spot in the backyard. Other good times are in bed before going to sleep or in the lazy summer vacation mornings when one is still in PJs. Finally, there are often reading lists that schools create for students to direct their summer reading, and some libraries have programs that track kids’ reading progress to help them feel a sense of accomplishment.
Enjoy the summer, and happy reading!