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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reading for the test

Dear Annie,

Your crowd has to have had the best set of costumes in all of Brooklyn, if not in the continental U.S.  Superb!

So here I am as Miss Rumphius:
A few customers actually recognized me -- those pieces of paper pinned to the cape were lupine seed packets.  And one person thought I was Mary Poppins.  She'd be a good character to be sometime.

Life has gone back to normal -- my co-workers are no longer Dr. Who (complete with fez), Katniss from The Hunger Games, or a very business-like young woman with FBI ID card from the X files.  So, as promised, I will turn to SATs and vocabulary.  On Monday, while I was floating around as Miss R, a teenage customer walked into the store and asked me if we had flash cards for studying vocabulary for the SATs.  Right on cue. (No, we don't.) Like you, I don't have a simple answer to the what-to-do-about-the-test problem.  Sigh.

If kids read a lot, they'll improve their vocabulary -- we all agree on this.  It's a lifetime thing -- I don't know if it makes a difference if you read a pile of novels in the six weeks before you take the SAT.   I tend not to think of individual books as having higher vocabulary levels than others.  As a wildly generalized rule of thumb, I'd say books written more than 20 or 30 years ago -- all the way back to 200+ -- probably have more vocabulary words unfamiliar to a 21st century teenager.  And my own prejudice is that British writers tend to be less hesitant about using unusual or more sophisticated vocabulary.  It depresses me that the motivation for reading would be to score better on the SAT.  And searching for vocabulary words while reading a good novel seems bound to put a damper on the experience.

Then there's the question of video games sucking away reading time.  Sigh again.  Many times, I hear parents sounding helpless in the face of their children's computer and video game habits.  Often, I think this is because parents didn't have a plan before the games came into their children's lives.  Video games are very seductive, and sometimes addictive.  Some of them can be fun and interesting too.  Two of the most useful words I know for parents facing the digital world are delay and limit.  Better that a kid should come to this stuff later than the average child rather than earlier.  Gives them more time to experience the world first-hand, be it reading or running around or building stuff with Legos or playing make-believe.  Then when games do arrive in one's house, even one little game, the limits should be clear.  I know some people who say, only in the car or when we're traveling.  Or only on weekends.  Or just half an hour a day.  If there's some routine that defines when they should stop, it helps fend off the Video Game That Ate My Child's Mind.

Is it interesting to be constantly surrounded by teenagers in the throes of thinking about and applying to college?  Or is that usually background noise to the work of the day?



1 comment:

  1. What a splendid outfit! Love the hair, too! Glad you posted it!