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Your student's brain may already have strong reading muscles, especially
when it comes to favorite books. But students need to familiarize themselves
with nonfiction texts from a wide variety of sources, so that their ability
to comprehend informational content is as strong as their ability to devour
novels and stories.
In order to get better at synthesizing a block of text (gulp!),
students have to practice reading smarter, not harder. On standardized
tests like the SAT and ACT, the provided informational passages are
different in style and content from the fiction that students frequently
encounter in class. Because these nonfiction reading skills are
intuitively learned, they cannot easily be taught in a classroom but instead
honed through hours of reading practice.
Learning how to read well is like learning how to hit a baseball.
Let's say little Johnny wants to be the best batter on his baseball team.
His coach can teach him how to hold the bat, the stance he should take at
the plate, the importance of keeping his eye on the ball, and how to connect
with the pitch. This is knowledge-based teaching.
Unfortunately, even the best coach can't make Johnny a star slugger simply
by teaching him the skills. He has to practice, practice, practice, until
his muscles have absorbed that knowledge and he doesn't even have to think
about it; his eyes and his arms and his legs all know what to do when the
pitch is thrown.
The point is that he doesn't have enough time to analyze that pitch using
everything he's been taught about speed, vectors, strategy; he doesn't have
time to remember everything his coach taught him. He has to use his
intuition, and the muscle sense he's earned with countless hours of
practice, to hit the ball before it flies into the catcher's mitt.
The brain works the same way with reading.
Students first learn how to read using knowledge-based teaching: first the
alphabet, then words, then sentences, followed by whole books. But to be a
truly great reader, they have to practice, just as Johnny does with
When you think about how many letters, words, and complex sentences you're
dealing with when you read a single essay, and how much work your brain is
doing, it's quite remarkable – as though your brain is hitting dozens of
baseballs flying at you every minute.
If your student is still reading at the knowledge-based level, this can be
very exhausting, difficult, and discouraging. It's a long journey to become
a reading pro: someone who can analyze written material effortlessly, even
enjoyably, at an intuitive level. It takes practice.
So what tools does your student need?
Students should read text from a variety of subjects to expose themselves
to something beyond fiction: the social sciences, natural science, history,
arts and culture, and current events. Reading material can easily be found
(for free!) in dozens of publications and journals, government agency
documents, and archives of historic essays and speeches.
To accelerate your student's progress, encourage your child to practice
for fifteen minutes a day. That's it! To make the most of your child's time,
each passage should ideally be accompanied by in-depth annotations and
related quizzes, including the following:
vocabulary preview notes
detailed analyses of key sentences
✓ paragraph summaries
reading comprehension quizzes and answer explanations
✓ progress reports updated in real time
✓ and more
Seems like a lot, right? That's where we come in. At
ReadingCare, we give students a new reading passage every
day, Monday through Friday, tailored to each age group, with plenty of
vocabulary and comprehension notes. Parents can even engage with students
through daily progress reports.
The mission of our Nonfiction Reading programs is simple: we want to
transform the act of reading from a difficult, unpleasant task to an
activity that feels as natural as walking, eating, or breathing. That takes
most students a lot of practice, which is exactly what we provide.
Check out ReadingCare's five-day free trials here and get a discount on
your first order!