Reading Articles

The Back-to-School Fresh Start

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

P9160357Dear Friends,

Back-to-school time is the perfect time to start fresh routines and establish healthy habits. These are the ones parents and I have been talking about the most:

  • First of All, Plan for Adequate Sleep: Most kids don’t get enough sleep. Students learn better, feel better and behave better when they’re properly rested. Check with your pediatrician and find out how many hours of sleep your child ought to be logging per night (chances are good you’ll be shocked at the large number), and then set the appropriate bedtime and enforce it.
  • Limit Electronics: Computers and cellphones and anything else with a glowing screen (including TVs and video games) need to be turned off one hour before bedtime to allow the mind to calm down for good sleep (this applies to adults, too!). And do establish cellphone-free chunks of time during the afternoon and evening; students need to read, study and eat dinner in peace. Interestingly, parents have been telling me that their kids often seem relieved to be given breaks from the relentless social pressure and privacy invasion of social media. I also felt this from my SAT class; students seemed to like my rule of collecting their cellphones before class!
  • Establish the Reading Habit: Before the school year becomes super-hectic, build in the habit of quiet reading for 20-30 minutes before lights out.
  • Don’t Overschedule: Too many sports and extra-curricular activities aren’t fun; they’re stressful!

Reading Tips for Everyone

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Dear Friends,

Group 1 085

Some 60′s era references at The Black Hole Museum, Los Alamos, New Mexico

A young student of mine began reading a fun-looking (to me) book called Schooled; I smiled as soon as I saw the peace symbol and tie-dye cover.

Here’s the Amazon synopsis:”Capricorn Cap Anderson has been homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain. When Rain is injured in a fall, Cap is forced to attend the local middle school. Although he knows a lot about Zen Buddhism, nothing has prepared him for the politics of public school.”

But of course my fifth grade student was having trouble relating to the book because, unlike me, he knew nothing about flower children, communes or any of the other 60′s era references. He had read the first two chapters on his own and was totally confused and lost.


Spring Break Road Trip? Use it to Fill the Knowledge Tank

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

P4210022Dear Friends,

I get a kick out of the recent Volkswagen commercial in which two guys pile into their Passat for a road trip, and then the passenger is appalled when his driver pal announces that instead of listening to music they’re going to learn a language.

Thirteen hours later, the buddies climb out of the car at a rest stop; the friend is still highly annoyed, and he rants and fumes at his companion…in fluent Spanish:

My own kids passed a good chunk of their childhoods in the car; I’ve always been an eager and ambitious traveler, so we spent virtually every school break driving somewhere. And we made those hours pass by listening to books on tape.


Getting Kids to Choose Reading

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

cats in the snow  Jan 27 2011 019Dear Friends,

It’s a snow day here, and I crave nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book. But so many of my students don’t feel the same way; they don’t “choose to read,” as parents often despair.

Although it is true that some kids learn to read more easily than do others, love of reading itself is not an inherent personality characteristic but is instead an acquired taste.


For Better Grades and Scores, Students Need This Kind of Practice

Friday, November 15th, 2013
Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

When I teach my SAT class, I begin by administering to my new students two sections of a practice test out of the Official SAT Guide.

Invariably, some student informs me, “I’ve done this test already.” Many kids come to my class having already purchased the SAT Guide and done some practice on their own.

“Do it again,” I tell them, and I find that, not only do these kids NOT score perfectly the second time around, their scores are indistinguishable from those of the rest of the class; if they hadn’t told me they had done these sections before, nothing in their scores would have tipped me off.


Seven Tips to Help Older Kids Who “Choose Not to Read”

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

P7180040Many students complain that reading is boring, books are stupid, and the material in their textbooks is pointless. In my experience, these are the kids who, in fact, find reading difficult.

When was the last time you listened to your child read out loud? For most parents, I’d guess it was elementary school. It’s natural to assume that once kids are reading independently, they don’t need any more help from us…but that’s very commonly not true. Many, many, many students in middle school, high school, and beyond, are still surprisingly unskilled readers.

I typically ask my test prep students and my content-area (history, literature, science) students to read a passage or two out loud for me. This gives me a quick snapshot of their reading capabilities.

If kids are tripping over lots of words and stalled by big sentences with complex phrasing, their comprehension is bound to suffer. When too much attention is absorbed in wrestling with the text, there’s too little brain-space left to think about what the passage means.

And, of course, struggling like this is no fun at all! So, poor readers typically use words like “boring,” “stupid,” and “pointless” as face-saving rationalizations for the truth; They find reading difficult, confusing, frightening, and ego-flattening…and they create every excuse to avoid it.

I’ve found that the best fix for turning reluctant, struggling readers around, is to read to them.Older kids (and adults!) usually LOVE being read to, and, no, it won’t spoil them or make them lazy. On the contrary, reading aloud to an older child helps motivate them by letting them absorb and enjoy the content free from all the stumbling blocks.

In this good article, read-aloud specialist Jim Trelease lists the benefits of reading aloud to older kids (though I disagree with his “up to age 14″ part; I read to 17, 18, and 21-year-olds all the time and they love it and gain from it!)

Here are seven suggestions for reading to, or with, your older child:

  1. Read the first chapter of a new book out loud, to spark your child’s interest and set them up for the …

Summer is Perfect for Habit Building!

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

When our schedule changes, many of the environmental cues that trigger automatic behaviors disappear. We feel unsettled, but our mind is open to developing fresh routines.

So although summer may feel tumultuous, it’s actually a wonderful time to help your student establish a new study habit, such as daily reading, vocabulary study, sentence writing or math practice.


Try Some Vocabulary for Breakfast!

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Vocabulary development is not just for school, not just for the SAT and ACT, not just for students. It’s a terrific way to promote brain health by staying mentally active. Plus, vocabulary study helps people of every age to stay connected to literature, science and current events, because the more words you know, the easier and more enjoyable reading is. Vocab study ought to be a lifelong habit!


A Small, Good Resolution: Stop Lying (Even the “White” Lies)

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

[On Saturdays my topic of focus is A Small, Good Thing, inspired by one of my favorite Raymond Carver stories.]

A big part of my identity is rooted in thinking of myself as a kind, caring, gentle and optimistic person…one who says supportive, positive things…a Tigger, not an Eeyore.

I’m uncomfortable saying anything that might come across as negative or unnice.  I hate the thought of hurting someone’s feelings or having them get angry at me.


Getting Back Into the Writing Groove

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Several factors have thrown me off my nice, comfortable writing routine, including some extra part-time work and then a freak snowstorm that left us without power or Internet access for a week.

I stopped blogging because my routine had been disrupted. My morning writing time was no longer available, and that’s when my head was in “writing mode.”


 

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