High School 2 College

June 28, 2009

Summer Suggestions for incoming Seniors, Juniors, And Anyone in High School

Every year, parents ask me what kids can do over the summer to prepare for the PSATs, SATs, or ACTs –parents of incoming Seniors, Juniors, and of younger students who feel it’s never too early.

Incoming (also called rising) seniors know they should be working on their college applications this summer.  Get to it!

Now that we got that out of the way, the number one most important thing ANY student can do over the summer to prepare for fall tests is READ!  Read anything.  Read everything.  Here are some reading guidelines:

1.  Reading something is better than reading nothing. It’s better to read trashy romance or adventure novels than to read nothing.  But there are some books that are better than others if you’re reading to prep for the SATs and ACTs (I’ll get to those in a minute).  Unfortunately, those good-for-you books are rarely the ones the high school English department requires for summer reading.  I know, it doesn’t make sense.  They have a sea of potential readers, and they choose books that have little literary value or books that kids could easily read on their own anyway.   Don’t get me started!

2.  Read outside your area of interest.  If you always read mysteries, read a biography.  If you always read fantasy, read history.  Each genre has its own jargon or vocabulary.

3.  Read magazines.  TIME and Newsweek are excellent for PSAT/SAT/ACT prep.  Read the letters to the editor — that’s where everyone uses his most impressive vocabulary so the world can see how smart he is.  Also, read the essay on the back page.  It’s a style of writing students don’t often get in school:  the persuasive essay.  It’s neither literature nor fact.  It IS like most of the essays on the SAT and the ACT.

4.  Work with a vocabulary book. The two best ones out there for the SATs are Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewish ($7) and SAT Vocabulary for Dummies ($17).  Word Power is good for students who already have a moderately good vocabulary and want it to grow.  SAT Vocab for Dummies attempts to make learning vocabulary fun by using puns, trivia, and jokes along with plenty of practice tests.  Either or both are available at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com.  Use them regularly.  Leave one in the bathroom with a pencil.  Or leave one at the breakfast table.  They really do help.

If you want a few good books to read over the summer, here are a few I recommend:

For students who were not brought up in an actively Christian household, I recommend books with a Christian setting.  There is some vocabulary that students just need that is Christian-based, like annul, chalice, sacrosanct, defrock, or penitent.  You pick these words up from reading books set in a Christian setting.  One of the best is Name of the Rose by Umberto Ecco.  It’s hard but worthwhile, and a tantalizing mystery.  For lighter reading, I recommend the Brother Cadfael mystery series by Ellis Peters.  Start with A Morbid Taste for Bones or One Corpse Too Many.  Brother Cadfael, an herbalist in a monastery, has to figure out who did it and why.  A good series for girls is the mystery series by Margaret Frazer starting with The Novice’s Tale.  These books are set in a convent in the middle ages and are juicy mysteries.

Reluctant readers of either gender usually like Fatal Vision by Joe McGinness, the true life story of a marine surgeon whose family is murdered by a band of hippies — he says.  Reluctant girl readers (older grades only — there are lots of references to sex although they’re not graphic) might like the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich which starts with One for the Money.  Gruesome and funny at the same time!

Readers looking for quality might like Jane Eyre by Bronte or Vanity Fair by Thackery.  Alison Weir writes wonderful history books on Tutor England, Henry VIII, and others.  They read like the most engrossing novels.

Some students prefer short stories.  Anything by James Thurber is funny, and is anything by P.G. Wodehouse – especially his Jeeves series.

Lastly, if you have questions on anything I’ve written, or just something you’ve been meaning to ask, please feel free to ask via a comment to this blog.  Others might just have the same question.

Have a safe, restful, literate summer!

Wendy Segal

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