Ferris Wheel at Chernobyl

Insightful Op Ed in WSJ on Why Johnny Can’t Read

Posted on 14th December 2012 in Tampa Reading Tutor

Given that much of  my tutoring practices is dedicated to serving IB students, I am always surprised at the number of them who do not read especially well. Under the headline “Vocabulary Declines, with Unspeakable Results,” E.D. Hirsch, Jr., writes about some of the reasons that today’s students have such trouble with reading comprehension.

Three lines in the article that struck me as true were these: “Students don’t learn new words by studying vocabulary lists. They do so by guessing new meanings within the overall gist of what they are hearing and reading. And understanding the gist requires background knowledge.”

Ferris Wheel at Chernobyl

This photo created by Timm Suess. Licensed under CC by SA 2.0. See more of Timm's photos on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lord_yo/. The photo is an abandoned amusement park near Chernobyl.

Part of the reason students are such poor readers is that they have not learned a great deal of  background that helps them decode difficult written material.

A stack of flashcards isn’t the way to go in most cases because students do best decoding new words in context and the lack of good comprehension is due to a lack of background knowledge to decode. The solution:  A reading program that includes fiction and non-fiction selections from a variety of disciplines can help poor readers gradually develop that background to get better at decoding. The gains come slowly, but–good news–they are cumulative.

Any parent of a child struggling with reading comprehension should read Hirsch’s Op Ed piece.

Eric Anderson is Language Arts tutor and history tutor based in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Contact him by phone at 813.787.8959. He makes house calls and can help your son or daughter become a better reader.

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Summer Reading Novel for 7th or 8th Graders: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

Posted on 28th May 2012 in Tampa Reading Tutor

There are an abundance of reading lists for middle school students. However, if you are looking for a good book for the kid to read over the summer, I recommend When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (WZBCTT) by Kimberly Willis Holt. Here is my brief review:

A National Book Award Winner, WZBCTT is the story of a teen’s encounter with the world’s fattest boy when the boy, Zachary, is stranded for a few weeks in the teen’s rural Texas town.

Set in the summer of 1971, the story captures some amusing aspects of small-town living, chronicles the narrator Toby’s difficulty attracting the attention of the girl of his dreams, and angst about his mother’s decision to leave his father to pursue her dream of becoming a country music star.

The story takes place in Antler, TX, and some of the down-home flavor seems overdone.  However, the story is good and the characters, memorable. The book is appropriate for 7th or 8th graders able to read 700 lexile material.

Eric Anderson is a reading and writing tutor in Wesley Chapel, FL. Contact him at 813.787.8959.

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Tampa English Tutor’s Guide to Improving Your Reading Skills for the SAT

Posted on 14th September 2011 in Tampa Reading Tutor

Tampa English Tutor Reveals How Smart Kids Read, Part I

There’s a secret to reading books and Tampa English Tutor is going to fill you in. Students who score high on the SAT test, smart kids, already know the secret and it’s high time you knew it, too. Before I fill you in, however, I’m going to touch on an exception.

In the unlikely event that I turn on the TV, more often than not one of my all-time favorite movies, The Princess Bride, is playing on some channel or another, and more often than not I end up watching it again. If you’ve never heard of the 1987 classic, click on the title and hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans will be happy to tell you what you’re missing.

Thankfully Facebook can fill you in, because I’m more interested in the fact that – oddly enough – William Goldman’s 1973 book The Princess Bride is also one of my all-time favorite books. This is unusual because I’m normally disappointed with film interpretations of my favorite books.

Why is that?

This is one of the secrets smart kids know about reading. A book isn’t page after page of little black squiggles. A book is a doorway into an alternate universe. Smart kids read books with their imaginations fully engaged. They may not be the screenwriters, but they put themselves right into the middle of the action and you can, too.

Think! Draw From Your Own Experiences and Use Your Imagination

When you think about what you’re reading and use your imagination, you become the casting director. You decide how the characters say their lines. You design the costumes. You design the sets. As cinematographer, you create the atmosphere.

Contrast that involvement with your role in a movie. When you watch a film, you have no control over the actors chosen to play each part. You can’t object when a favorite line is used to tug on heartstrings when you used it as a bit of comic relief. The setting might be a shock when you see how far off the mark it is from your own ideal. You might find yourself watching the final credits roll before you finally get the fact that one of your favorite scenes was cut from the movie altogether. The ending might have been completely different. Why did they mess with success?

The answer is: Hollywood has nothing on your imagination. There are no special effects, no actor with enough star quality and no editing genius that can compete with what you can imagine.

Smart Kids Put Themselves in the Action

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th-century American poet, essayist and philosopher, summed this secret up long before movies existed.

“In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine,” he wrote.

Smart kids know books are their own private movie productions. Good readers engage their imaginations along with all of their senses. Smart kids invest in books when they join the action and become emotionally involved.

Guest blogger Kate Rowland is a multiple-award winning journalist on state and national levels. She enjoys blogging for I-Tutor-English.com, a private tutoring company serving Florida students in New Tampa, Lutz, Wesley Chapel and Odessa.

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Tampa English Tutor Says TGIS – Thank God It’s Summer

Posted on 13th June 2010 in Tampa Reading Tutor

A few of my students just finished taking their SATs and ACTs and I am glad to have a little break from private SAT tutoring.

My wife teaches at one of the middle schools in Wesley Chapel, FL, so I’m really happy that she’s finally off for the summer.
Today we hit some garage sales in the lovely Stagecoach subdivision.

hot dog and bun image for Tampa Tutor Blog
This image created by Mike Johnson of The Busy Brain . Licensed Under Creative Commons Attribution Only. Mike on Flickr.

For me, garage sales are mostly about hunting for books.  I’ve collected so many books this year.  Maybe summer will finally give me the time to read a few. One of the books I hated in high school was The Great Gatsby. I re-read it tonight because I will be tutoring a student who needs help with it next week.

It will never be a favorite of mine, but it’s a much better book than I thought.

What’s on your summer reading list?

Eric Anderson is a private Tampa English Tutor serving students in New Tampa, Wesley Chapel, and Temple Terrace, Florida, as well as surrounding neighborhoods. Contact Eric at 813.787.8959.

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Tampa Reading Tutor Recommends Seedfolks for 7th or 8th grade readers

Posted on 12th February 2010 in Tampa Reading Tutor

A few months ago, I read a little of Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman with one of the middle school students I tutor. I enjoyed the excerpt, and I always wanted to finish the book. Yesterday, I finally did.

Seedfolks is the story of 13 inhabitants of an inner-city Cleveland neighborhood and how they are changed by their roles in transforming a rat-infested vacant lot into a lush community garden. Each character tells his or her own story.

This photo taken by Tony the Misfit and licensed under Creative Commons.
See more of his photos in Tony’s Flickr photostream.

I thoroughly enjoyed the overlapping stories. I especially enjoyed the “inside baseball” essay that closes the book and offers readers insight into the book’s origins and the connections between author and story.

If your child needs help improving his or her reading, call New Tampa Reading Tutor Eric Anderson. Eric tutors students in grades 6-12 in New Tampa, Wesley Chapel, Carrollwood, and Temple Terrace, Florida. Reach him at 813.787.8959 or at tampa tutor at tampabay dot rr dot com.