English Tutor’s Guide to Improving Your Reading Skills for the SAT
Tampa English Tutor Reveals How Smart Kids Read, Part II
There are secrets that smart kids know about getting the most out of books and Tampa English Tutor filled you in on one of them in Part I: Let your imagination take over and interact with books as though they’re your own private movie productions. Smart kids, kids who do well on the SAT, know how to do this, and now you do, too.
Some authors dislike writing screenplays. Why? Well, if you have pretty rigid ideas on how characters should look and read their lines, imagine how an author feels. When you read a book, pretend you’re the author and argue your ideas with a director. Ask yourself what you want to see in a movie. Consider the book’s key points. Smart kids consider plot, atmosphere, dialogue and whether the story rings true. Why did the author choose a particular setting? What tone did it set? Did it match the action?
If you’re reading a horror novel and atmosphere is established with the opening sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night.” I hope you take a moment to laugh. One secret that smart kids know is that the more you engage, the more a book stays with you. What would you have used as an opening line instead? Someone else wrote the book but your ideas are valid. Keep asking questions throughout the book. Allow your mind to meander. Take an alternate path in your imagination. Hopefully, the author had a good reason to point the action in a certain direction. If you ask yourself, “Why?” you’ll notice when the answer is given later on. When you notice these things, you’re catching on to the author’s plot devices and character-development tools. You’re a smart kid!
Problem Solve, Make Predictions and Guess Solutions. Identify Key Concepts,
When you think about what you’re reading, you might catch key points early on and guess where the book is going. Some books are more obvious than others, but you can catch the more subtle points, too. I’m currently reading a cozy murder mystery. Spider Web is the 15th book by Earlene Fowler about a California folk art museum curator and rancher. Benni Harper is a hospitable and friendly character. In the second or third chapter, however, Benni takes an instant and irrational dislike to a new acquaintance. Fowler explains that this is because Benni is tired and overworked. Right. I’m guessing the only surprise I’m in for is if this woman is not the bad guy. Now that I’ve made this prediction, I’m tempted to look ahead to make sure – but that’s cheating. Thankfully, since I finished the book last night, I don’t have to cheat to tell you I was wrong. That can happen when making predictions, but the important thing is that you’re thinking!
If I had been right, that would have been okay, too. It’s part of the cozy’s charm. No blood, no gore and often predictable endings. Cozies are brain candy. Not very nutritious, but a yummy dessert after Stieg Larrson’s riveting-yet-lengthy Millenium trilogy. Larrson was a newspaper reporter who handed in his masterpiece, suffered a massive heart attack and promptly passed away. If you want to read the first installment before the movie taints your imagination, move fast. I find it hard to believe anyone could improve on the Swedish-subtitled version, but Hollywood is trying. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has not yet been released, but it’s ready to go.
Another secret smart kids know about reading is to apply personal background to gain insight. While it may seem there’s little in my background that shines a light on Sweden – and probably less in yours to comprehend 17th-century morality – reading other books provides background, too.
Publishing companies appear convinced that Sweden is currently chock full of best sellers and I’ve read five or six translations in the last year or so. I understand a little about Swedish politics and journalism, recognize some of the larger cities and have a fair picture of its citizens – they’re a lot like us. I understand the impact of vanishing fisheries since I witnessed the same on the Oregon and Florida coasts. I grew up in Michigan and know more than I’d like about snow, ice and frigid temperatures.
Narrow a Plot’s Twists and Turns into a Few Key Points. Decide What’s Important and What Isn’t.
Smart kids get lost in page-turners just like everyone else. You don’t need to scrutinize every word. Not everything has an impact on a book’s major and minor themes. With practice, you ;earn which language sets atmosphere and which dialogue is used to develop a key theme. Recognizing the important and discarding the unimportant becomes habit.
Smart kids, kids who excel on the SAT test, know a few strategies to avoid dictionaries. There’s no excuse not to zip over to dictionary.com to look up a word if a computer is handy. But if you read in bed and the laptop is shut down – does anyone use hard copies of dictionaries anymore? – smart kids have a few tricks that can help. If they’re really smart, they know they could be wrong, too, and refrain from using their new vocabulary before consulting a dictionary. If you read Shakespeare, my heartfelt advice is to use a copy that includes lots and lots of footnotes. But if you’re reading a book that is written in English, and you just can’t get a handle on what you’re reading – whether it’s a word, a phrase or a couple of pages, Tampa English Tutor can help.
Reread the bit you don’t understand a couple of times. Try reading it out loud. You might be tired and that may be all it takes to power the overhead lightbulb. Skip ahead until you understand what’s going on and see if that helps you decipher the mystery part. Ask an older sibling or parent. Ask your SAT tutor. It’s a good idea to pick the brains of someone who is already awake. Maybe a picture or graphic can clue you in. Good readers know they’re not expected to know every single word. Give yourself a break, but don’t neglect learning new vocabulary, either.
Guest blogger Kate Rowland, a multiple-award winning journalist on state and national levels, enjoys writing for I-Tutor-English.com, a private tutoring company serving Florida students in New Tampa, Lutz, Wesley Chapel and Odessa.