In my last Crossties submission, I was a bit heavy in my discussion on class, privilege, and empathy. I have not left that discussion behind, and I want to let you know that I just received Jonathan Sacks’ The Home We Build Together, the book referred to in the John Allman letter I mentioned previously. Let me get through that and I will report back to you. It may be a while however, as I just returned from a rainy weekend at the beach where I found two rollicking novels of maritime adventure and a compendium of four novels by Trevanian in an antique store in Georgetown, SC—all good stuff even if they do smell a bit like mildew.
So, where am I going with this? We are in the middle of college admissions season and students are wondering what they can do to find that extra 20-30 points on their verbal scores. It is a bit tough at this point, so we resort to a bit of trickeration, essentially teaching kids to take the test. A more effective strategy is to encourage/coerce/bribe your children into reading for pleasure. The earlier you start, the more effective you will find encouragement. A study by the National Reading Foundation found that students learn 15 new words each school day and that a majority of these words come not from intensive instruction but instead from independent reading. It is amazing how reading, and the increased vocabulary it produces, can have a dramatic impact on standardized test scores.
Libraries are a great place to start, and librarians are one of the great untapped resources in this world. Ask Mrs. Holley for some great books to start your child off on their independent reading adventure. Better yet, spend some time with your Lower School child exploring the titles on the North Cross 100 Books list. These books were not chosen by accident, and they are all great.
Even better for me (and the planet) is to find a used bookstore, so that your kids can buy books. It cost me $7.50 for my three hardback books, mildew included. Kids’ books are even less expensive, and there is something about a child developing a book shelf full of their own favorites. Let your kids wander the store, buy books that are too difficult, or buy books of pictures. Give them five dollars and let them haggle with the owner so that they can get three books and not just two. Buy a story that you both like and read it together (#Phantomtollbooth). Or, visit Mrs. Holley during Book Fair and support your reader and the library at the same time.
As a parent, you should love rainy days at the beach because you cannot get your kids’ noses out of a great book. If you get to this point, pat yourself on the back and let me know how you did it in this age of streaming and social media. It is no easy task, but you’ll encourage a skill that is a critical component of high achievement. It is worth the effort.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor, the ninth head of school at North Cross since 2011, has more than 26 years of experience in education, 15 of which have been at the head of school level. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.