Summer Reading and Score Gains

I used to read all the time.  Or so I’m told.  As my mother tells me, I was always found with a book during the early years of my life.  I can’t say exactly why my reading habits changed—maybe it was sports, the release of the Nintendo 64, or learning to play the guitar—but by the time I reached middle school, I defiantly announced to my mom that I didn’t want to read anymore, because she “had already read me all of the books in the world.”  Reading had ceased to be a pleasurable activity for me, consigned to the growing list of things I did only because teachers assigned them.  Compared with young-child-Bryan, adult-Bryan hardly reads.

Who has the time?  With school work (or just “work” work for people like me), sports and other extracurricular activities, and attempting to maintain some semblance of a social life, reading for pleasure can often get squeezed to the margins of our schedules or eliminated entirely—I hear this from our students all the time, and I totally get it.  My experience, like many others’, was very similar to this. Until very near the end of college (during which I was assigned approximately 1000 pages of reading per week as a history major), I didn’t even want to think about reading another word outside of the classroom.  While I read because I had to, I can’t say I always enjoyed it, and sometimes it was downright miserable.

But then something changed again—I found out that there is an incredible amount of reading to be done, focused on exactly what I want to read and learn more about, if I look in the right places.  Where are the right places?  All over the internet.  Sure, there is lots of noise and some downright trash on the worldwide web, but there’s also a wealth of well-written, thoughtful writing to be found.  The key to the exercise is finding something that interests you, something that you actually want  to read.  If you do so, reading will be as entertaining as any other activity you love to do.  So allow me to amend my earlier statement: adult-Bryan hardly reads books, but adult-Bryan still reads all the time.

I am a huge sports fan, and I also love to watch “prestige” televsion—those multi-season, dramatic series like “Breaking Bad,” “The Wire,” and “Game of Thrones”—and I spend a good deal of time reading about these things.  Today, I already know I’ll read Zach Lowe’s analysis of last night’s NBA finals game on, and I’ll certainly spend some time reading commentary on last night’s “Game of Thrones” season finale (also, on Grantland, coincidentally).  I’ll likely check in on Nate Silver’s, a site written by statisticians that examines everything from sports trends to politics to Americans’ favorite non-American cuisines, sorted by region.  Finally, since I try to follow politics, I’ll stop by the New York Times’ editorial page and see if any articles pique my interest today.  Some of the topics I’ve listed are serious (NYT editorial page) and some are downright non-academic (GoT recap), but the point is that they are all very well-written, thoughtful, and, most importantly, interesting to me.  Because I find these sources entertaining, I actually seek out opportunities to read, and by the time I’ve read everything I want to, I’ll have read for 45 minutes to an hour—not a bad amount for a Monday!  Do this every day, or at least a few times per week, and before you know it you’ll have spent lots of time working on your reading ability.

Reading is like anything else—practice makes perfect—so if you want to get better at reading, all you have to do is find something you want to read and put in the time.  You wouldn’t expect to learn Spanish without spending time speaking Spanish.  You’re not going to perfect that jumpshot or kick-serve without hours of repetition.  You’re not going to master factoring or foiling without working through a large number of homework problems.  Reading is no different.  As you embark on your own personal reading project, it may be slow or difficult at first, but stick with it and you’ll see results in time.

It’s easy—do you want to perform better on your SATs or ACT?  Read more.  Do you want to be better prepared for college, work, and life?  Read more!  Do you want to be a more confident and eloquent speaker and writer of English? READ MORE!!


Below are a few suggested sources; start with a topic you find interesting and see what they have to offer!

The Atlantic



NY Times


Rolling Stone