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How Reading the Newspaper Every Day Will Make You a Better Student
(Continued from EdWorld At Home)

The More You Read, the Higher You Score

The experts will tell you (they already told us) that the best way to prepare for any standardized test is to read anything you can get your hands on – novels, textbooks, poems, magazines, the backs of cereal boxes – because reading is the best way to improve your vocabulary and comprehension. Vocabulary and comprehension are the two main ingredients for doing well on the verbal side of these standardized tests, and a related skill – reading instructions very carefully – is important no matter what the subject matter. But don’t take our word for it: The College Board, the group that writes the SAT and PSAT, has declared, “Students who have strong reading habits do well on the verbal part of the SAT.”

What makes the newspaper the ideal reading material for building these skills is that, one, a daily newspaper covers so many subjects that you’re bound to find new vocabulary words in it almost every day, and, two, most newspaper articles are just about the same length as SAT reading passages, and they deal with similar subjects.

Words in the News

Start on the front page and work on your vocabulary. As you read the articles, make a note of any word whose meaning you don’t know. Then try to figure out what it means from how it’s used. Here’s an example:

“Democrats yesterday used a filibuster tactic to delay a vote on the law. Until the filibuster ends, Senators will have to wait to decide whether it should become a law for all Americans under 18 to read the newspaper every day.”

So, what does filibuster mean? If you guessed, “some kind of delaying tactic,” you’re on the road to higher scores. Figuring out the general meaning of words from their context is a key test-taking skill. (Use a dictionary to check the exact meanings of new words to take your skill here to the next level.)

Hop to the Op-Ed

Next, move to the opinion page of the paper. (It’s often called the “Op-Ed” page because it’s opposite – op – the page with the newspaper’s own editorials, or opinion pieces.) This section often also contains letters to the editor from readers. You can usually find this section on one of the last pages of the front section of the newspaper.

The amazing thing about opinion articles and columns is that they look so much like the reading passages you’ll find on standardized tests, in style and length. In fact, they’re just about identical. Choose an opinion piece to read. As you read, try to answer some of these questions in your head, because they’re the kinds of questions you’ll be asked on standardized tests:

  • What issue is this person writing about?

  • Why is it important?

  • What does this writer think about the issue?

  • How does the writer express his or her main ideas?

  • Did the writer try to convince me to agree with his or her point of view?

  • Does the headline tell me the writer’s main point?

Beyond the Front Page

You can work on a lot of skills using the front section of the newspaper. But there’s a lot more inside:

  • Science and food articles are full of new vocabulary words you might not find anywhere else.
  • Newspaper maps, charts and political cartoons and just like the ones you’ll be studying in social studies class.
  • Articles about community history and traditions could give you ideas for class projects.
  • And don’t forget TV, music, and movie reviews – they’re opinion pieces, and you can practice your reading skills on them as well.

There’s one more thing about reading the newspaper every day. As you start following the ups and downs of major stories each day – overseas battles, political campaigns, and courtroom trials – you may find yourself getting hooked. And once reading the paper becomes a habit for you, higher test scores should become a habit as well.

More Resources & Ideas from the Web

USA TODAY surveyed reporters and the public as the year 2000 approached and asked about the top 100 news events of the past 100 years. The list is here. Please remember that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, are not listed!

Here are a few Web sites that have news for young people:

Also, while you’re looking at today’s news, you might be interested in finding out about things that happened …

On This Day in History (This is part of the New York Times Learning Network, as is the following page.)

On This Day in History Archives (Look up what happened in history on your birthday!)

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