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Your SAT Score and the Habit of Reading

March 2007
Your SAT Score and the Habit of Reading

Recently the College Board (creator of the SAT test) published its annual College Board Seniors 2006 report. Here are some results.

Nearly 1.5 million high school seniors took the test in 2006

You see some interesting patterns?

Asian Americans as a racial group garnered the highest in Total and Math scores out of all groups, including Caucasians, African Americans, and Hispanics. Scores for Reading and Writing were highest among Caucasians, with Asian Americans coming in second.

For Georgia, the results were similar with Asian Americans earning the highest numbers in Total and Math scores. However the total overall score for Georgia's Asian Americans was significantly lower at 1567 than the national average for Asian Americans of 1600.

It's no secret that Asian Americans are highly competitive when it comes to academics, bringing a long tradition of respect for education. Having that competitive spirit helps especially in an American culture that does not value education as much. We have to tell our kids that "smart is cool" when, at school, they may be hearing and sensing the very opposite.

Smarter parents = higher scores?

One correlation in the data, which does track parent's level of education, is that the higher the degree the parent has, the higher the overall and section scores are. Scores for students whose parents did not have a college degree were 1451. In contrast, students whose parents had bachelor's or graduate degrees were 1572 and 1682, respectively.

A recent National Public Radio broadcast focused on the growing competition for seats at the most selective universities. The broadcast noted that parents who had graduated from the top colleges and universities appeared to push their own children in the same collegiate direction.

No doubt, parents whose own level of education is high will be able to inspire and encourage their own children, fostering in them a love of learning, which will incidentally be evident in grades and exam scores.

Advice? Read, read, read!

The academically successful students with whom I have worked are all avid readers. It is rare to find them without a book in their hands—waiting for mom somewhere, sitting on the bus, riding in the car—these kids are always reading!

My advice to all students is to read, read, and then read some more. If education were boiled down into one maxim, then the key slogan, like real estate's "location, location, location," would be: "reading, reading, and reading." Read novels. Read non-fiction. Read the newspaper. Read your science textbook. Read National Geographic.

For junior high school and high school students, here some suggested readings for both female and male students. They are not only entertaining, but also hopefully will spark an interest in reading and thinking. Another suggestion is to find an inspiring historical or current personage and read a biographical work.

Black Boy by Richard Wright

Dracula by Bram Stoker

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The House behind the Cedars by Charles Chesnutt

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

My Antonia by Willa Cather

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Roots: The Sage of an American Family by Alex Haley

"The Weavers" and other plays by Gerhart Hauptmann

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Any Book written by Agatha Christie (Mystery Novelist)

Short Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

Remember, not all reading is created equal. Reading popular novels provides entertainment and a modicum of exposure to literature, but it does not challenge your child's mind the same way that an SAT I test or a top notch college English course will. Notice that Asian Americans' performances in the reading and writing sections were not as stellar as in math. So encourage kids to read a wide range of good quality writing!

--Mimi Kang

Author, Mimi Kang, is education director of Trusted Learning Center / TLC Prep, and a graduate of Columbia University in New York City.

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