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Local teacher: ‘Reading can help improve overall ACT scores’

By: Donnamy Steele

After missing months of scheduled school time due to COVID-19, many parents are concerned about the impact this will have on their children. Pleasant Home High School English teacher Jennifer Withrow explained how students can improve their ACT testing scores as well as encourage students to learn outside of the classroom.

“Our juniors had just taken the ACT before the virus hit,” Withrow said. “The next group kind of missed, but they didn’t miss enough for it to be detrimental to them.”

Although the lack of in-class instruction posed an issue for students, Withrow explained that summer is when most students stop focusing on their education.

“Some loss occurs in the summertime, but reading, writing, and being engaged for as little as 20 minutes a day is enough to improve their reading and keep their brains thinking,” Withrow said.

Withrow finds that guiding students to books that they actually enjoy will help them reach their reading goals.

“It makes sense to read in order to improve your reading, but it’s also important to read what you want to read,” Withrow said.

If a student enjoys what they are reading, they are most likely to pay attention to detail and comprehend the text according to Withrow.

“There will be one kid who reads because their parents told them to, one kid who will read but won’t pay attention to what they are reading, and another who will not read at all,” Withrow said.

She said she has noticed that giving kids access to books that they enjoy reading will make a difference in this.

“I want parents to see that it is important to read and to have the motivation to do so,” Withrow said. “The classics are great, but if they want to read something they will.”

Withrow encourages students to read smaller books and articles, but reading longer works is essential for academic growth.

“Reading longer work pushes their skills and makes them ask questions, think back, and connect things,” Withrow said.

“Even if some parents don’t know how to help with subjects like math or science, they can encourage reading,” Withrow said. “Reading is a part of all of them. It helps with comprehension, which can improve how students score in other subjects.”

If you want to improve in all subjects, reading is the starting point according to Withrow.

“The ACT is not a test that you want to cram for,” Withrow said. “I don’t want you to stress over it. I want you to be prepared to deal with it. Reading improves the ability to think through situations and it ties into everything.”

Withrow stressed the importance of understanding what you are learning versus memorizing things just for the test.

“The ACT is more about being prepared for college than being prepared for just the test,” Withrow said. “Having this knowledge after the test will prepare students for college.”

If parents are struggling to find ways to encourage their kids to learn while out of school, Withrow wants them to see that encouraging reading is the best way.

“I wanted to talk about this because reading a little bit each day is something that parents might not have considered. It is the easiest and best way for students to improve their scores.”

If parents want to know more about the books their children are reading, they can find information about them online.

“For parents who are concerned about what their children may read, there are websites such as Good Reads that will give parents a heads up about the content in each book,” Withrow said. “Although, I think it is important for students to be exposed to complex subjects when reading.”

Withrow also encourages students to read in print rather than electronically.

“I’m not knocking it, but I recommend parents encourage their kids to read newspapers, magazines and books,” Withrow said. “Technology can be addictive and it’s nice to unplug for a minute. Reading expands your imagination, creativity, and vocabulary. It trains you to think outside of the box and deal or grapple with complex situations, like the virus and thinking of how to continue our lives outside of it. My goal is to help my students find that thing they like and recommend a book by that. Ask them about their hobbies and find a book about it.”