How to Prepare Your Child for the SAT Reading Exam

The best preparation for the SAT Reading test begins in elementary school.  How can parents best prepare their children for these very important tests in their future?

  1. When children are young, they need to be exposed to print early, such as picture books, and they need to be read to frequently.
  2. Homes need to be filled with many types of exciting and interesting printed material at many levels: books and magazines.
  3. There needs to be a regular time in the evening when parents and children spend time reading interesting books and magazines.  This should not feel like a punishment or requirement; it should be a fun time that children look forward to each evening.
  4. Parents need to take their children to the library frequently to check out library books.  Either the parent or a librarian may need to suggest books designed to pique their curiosity, based upon the child’s interests.
  5. The latter three points need to continue throughout their childhood and on into adolescence.
  6. If the child has reading difficulties or does not like to read, the parent needs to quickly address the issue, whether by working with their school district and the child’s English teacher and/or a private, trained reading specialist.

The reason behind all of this is that, as we say, “The rich get richer.”  Those students who read a wide variety of print – fiction and non-fiction – become better and more fluent readers with a powerful vocabulary (another element of the SAT test).  Those who do not read widely have a lower vocabulary and difficulty reading fluently on grade level.  This problem with not only plague students when they go to take the SAT testing, but will plague them throughout their school career.  Students who are not fluent read like a rusty gate opening; they are slow and labored and have difficulty comprehending what they are reading, because they have not developed enough sight words to read fluently.  It is hard for them to keep the meaning in their mind of what they are reading, as they slowly try to sound out so many unknown words.  They sound like they are tremendously exerting themselves as they read aloud.  I found many of my middle school students, even those from affluent homes filled with books, sounded just like this and were not fluent readers on grade level.

Fortunately, the remediation for a native English speaking reader (and for many advanced ELLs) who needs to gain fluency at their reading level is repeated reading of materials that are enjoyable, such as plays.  The lessons begin with repeated reading of plays paired with comprehension work at the student’s current instructional reading level (determined by quick and easy testing) and moves the student up to their grade level equivalent reading level, as the student becomes fluent at each reading level below their grade level equivalent.   Each lesson must pair the repeated reading with comprehension work as well, so that students stay focused upon the idea that they are ultimately reading to comprehend the text.  I have found in my teaching practice in my remedial reading courses that students doing this type of work two to three times a week for an hour tended to quickly move up about three grade levels in their reading in a few months, if there are no other reading disabilities.  Other supports are added for students with reading disabilities.  It is optimal to pair this with students reading higher interest/lower level reading materials on their own at their current reading level.

I give all of my students a reading test and test them for fluency and comprehension.  A quick test a parent can do to see if their child is having difficulties in reading is to have the child read material at their grade level equivalent.  Do they sound fluent, like they are having a conversation with you or labored and slow?  Did they comprehend what they read fully?   Now is the time to work on the problem, rather than later.  A student that proceeds onto high school, and especially college, who is not a fluent reader will be more likely to drop out (especially in college, where the independent reading demand increases exponentially).

Please contact me if you are interested in having me conduct reading testing and remediation for your child, or if you are a struggling reader preparing for college or the SAT.  Most of the remediation work is fun.  I never had a middle school student who did not want to do the repeated reading work; they always found it enjoyable!

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