Originally published: March 11, 2020
It might now seem like a long way off, but in just a couple of years, you’re going to start thinking about applying to college. Part of that, of course, is taking the SAT or ACT, and you’re undoubtedly going to be doing focused test-prep to get ready.
The breakdown of each test is pretty familiar: English, reading, math, and (on the ACT) science. Of them all, the most difficult one to prep for once 11th grade rolls around is the reading section. This isn’t because the reading section is more difficult than the others, but because reading is a skill that takes time to practice and develop. When you show up at PrepMatters, we can help you learn testing strategies. We can also teach you about topics you’ll need to know in math, grammar, and science. But reading comprehension isn’t a topic, it’s a skill – and that means we can only do so much in the relatively short period of time we get to work with you.
But if you take the long view, the reading section is the easiest to prepare for. And the most rewarding. And the most valuable to your life after college applications are done.
I’m talking about learning to love reading for its own sake.
No matter what you do in life, reading is important. It’s a skill you need to succeed at every stage of your education. That’s going to continue to be true even after you’ve finished your education, no matter what career you choose. Reading also makes you more knowledgeable, a better citizen, and (frankly) a more interesting person. Plus, it’s super fun. If you don’t think you’re a reader, you just haven’t found the right book yet.
Because that’s the secret: it doesn’t matter what you read. There’s just as much value in reading manga as there is in reading Shakespeare, in Moby Dick as in Harry Potter, in The New York Times as in Twilight. Read what you want to read, and enjoy every second of it.
It’s a hobby that you can enjoy without paying a cent. Public libraries are free, and if you don’t want to borrow a physical copy of a book, borrow an ebook instead. Ebooks are amazing things. If you have a cellphone, you can literally carry a book or 10 or 1000 in your pocket wherever you go (something I would have killed for when I was a kid). You don’t even need to stress about the fact that the book you love happens to have embarrassingly awful cover art that you do not want to be seen in public with (something else I would have killed for as a kid - seriously, why do so many great fantasy and science fiction books have such terrible covers?). And it’s much harder to get bored when you’re carrying a book you can’t wait to dive back into.
(Sneaking reading in class instead of paying attention is officially discouraged, and something I certainly did not get in trouble for all the time. Absolutely not. It’s unthinkable!)
So find yourself a book. Ask around for recommendations from friends, parents, teachers, librarians (librarians are awesome), or even your friendly PrepMatters test prep tutor. If you happen to ask me, you better have an hour or two available - because once you get me going, I will not shut up.