In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Better than SAT prep?

Dear Aunt Debbie,

I'm glad we're swinging back to YA for the moment, because I have a question for you.  I spent three hours last night and two more this afternoon holding Parent-Teacher conferences, speaking with the parents of about half of my students (I teach just over 150 kids each semester).  Exhausting, but totally worthwhile.

One of the questions that often comes up in these conferences is how parents can help their high school-age kids prepare for the SATs and college applications.  Many parents complain that their kids aren't big readers, or used to be but aren't anymore; that they spend all their time on the computer either playing games or doing homework. At this point in their lives, these kids are learning vocabulary from test-prep courses: rote memorization with handy tricks to game the system. 

As I've mentioned before, I don't think this kind of vocabulary study works particularly well.  It's good for the short term, but it takes reading a word in context multiple times to understand its nuances, and to retain it.  I encourage parents to see all reading that their kids do as positive, and not to pile on the extra homework in an attempt to make their kids into learning machines.  Still, I am often asked for book recommendations that will help these high-schoolers succeed academically.

So here's what I'm wondering: are there YA books out there that are both high-interest and high-vocabulary level?  My student monitor asked me about this this afternoon, and I couldn't come up with anything off the top of my head.  When I read YA these days, I don't pay particular attention to the vocabulary level -- do you?

Love, Annie

1 comment:

  1. First, it's good for everyone to be brought up on Mother Goose for vocabulary (stile, nimble, contrary, etc.)
    Then, aside from being read to constantly, it is good to read Dickens. Maya Angelou did this and so did I. Loaded with nice vocabulary to absorb by osmosis).
    Yeah. Mother Goose and Dickens definitely will yield high SAT scores. Someday someone will do the drudge work to prove this, but I'm telling you now.