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College Talk Blog

Why Some Don't Test Well

What does reading have to do with riding a bike?

One of the questions I ask students who say they want to improve their grades or standardized test scores is: "How much do you read for pleasure?" This question is often met with a downward glance and a mumbled: "not much". When we talk about why they are not reading, they often report that they do not enjoy reading for a variety of reasons: vocabulary, losing their place, becoming distracted or not having enough time.

I like to compare doing well in school and on tests to preparing for a bike race. I ask students: "If you were preparing for a bike race in three months, what would you do?" They always have the correct answer: "I'd ride my bike everyday and each day I'd ride farther and faster!"


It is the same with reading. If you are planning to take courses or a test...you need to read. Reading an SAT book or textbook is not the only reading needed to win. Students need to learn to read well and comprehend (and remember) what they read. That can only happen when they read regularly and part of that reading should be pleasure reading. 

So the answer to why reading a book is like riding a bike is that both activities increase your skill, your speed and your confidence!


I highly recommend that students use some form of electronic reader because they will always have their books with them. Armed with books they enjoy, they can turn a twenty minute wait for a doctor's appointment into an enjoyable experience. 

A list of 35 books suggested for high school age college-bound teens follows:

FICTION AND NONFICTION SUMMER READING LIST IDEAS*


2.       Virals by Kathy Reichs



5.       My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

6.       Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

7.       10% Happier by Dan Harris


9.       The Boy in the Stiped Pajamas by John Boyne

10.   Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fanny Flagg

11.   The Reader by Tracy Chee


13.   To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

14.   Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein

15.   All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

16.   Small Steps by Louis Sachar

17.   1984 by George Orwell


19.   Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

20.   A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


22.   Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

23.   Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

24.   A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

25.   Blindspot, Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald

26.   The Memory Book by Lara Avery

27.   The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

28.   The Light Between Oceans by ML Steadman


30.   The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

31.   Station Elevenby Emily St. John Mandel

32.   The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge


34.   The Gene: An Intimate Historyby Siddhartha Mukherjee

35.   Grandma Gatewood’s Walkby Ben Montgomery

*Some books recommended in 2017 by educators and others by members of the National Association of College Admission Counselors


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