In my opinion, a love of reading is the single biggest academic skill a child can develop prior to high school. A child's relationship to reading impacts their academic trajectory more than any other single factor.
In a prior blog post, I offer 10 Tips on how to raise an avid reader.
Today, I have to admit that I have failed to achieve this goal for my 8th grader. He will read when he has to, but there is no spark - there is no love of reading.
I have tried many of the techniques and failed. Maybe I wasn't disciplined enough, or I assumed he'd be like his brothers, or I was just too tired to follow-through on the technique.
As a former Navy SEAL, giving up is not in my playbook, so I began looking for more options.
Here are some things I considered:
7 Essential Skills for Teens
I believe professional success is directly related to how well we master 7 essential skills. If we master these skills, it won't matter if we go to Princeton University, Wichita State, or East Lansing Community College.
It won't matter if we ultimately enter the private sector, public sector, or outer space - we will succeed in life.
I deployed (and re-deployed) these 7 skills hundreds (if not thousands) of times during my 30-year journey from Yale University, to Investment Banking, to the Navy SEALs, to Harvard Business School, to Firefighting, to Entrepreneurship, to Shark Tank, to PrepWell Academy.
The daily roles and responsibilities in each of these fields were dramatically different. The skills required to get into each of these fields were dramatically similar. And that's the point.
The reason these skills are so "essential" is because they are so "repeatable".
Learning these repeatable skills will allow you to adjust, change, regroup, and...
These days, I worry that teens are gradually losing skills and concepts that may have long-term effects on their personal development. Here's a short list of things that are going the way of the buffalo...
Clearly, these changes aren't all bad, but the pace and depth of these changes should be noted.
After spending the last two years observing how teenagers approach the college admissions process, I have concluded that the average teenager's concept of time...
Experts agree that reading may be the single best activity a student can do to excel academically in school. It trumps tutoring, Kumon classes, and flash cards. I wholeheartedly agree.
In addition to what reading does for one's imagination and exposure to new ideas, it also takes a tremendous weight off a student's shoulders when it comes to SAT prep (and class work in general).
The truth is, the verbal section of the SAT (which includes Critical Reading and Writing) cannot be studied for at the last minute. There is no way to cram for "reading comprehension", for example. In some ways, a student either "has it" or not.
Sure, there are strategies and test-taking tips that may swing a score by a few points, but a student's true score will be a direct reflection of how much they have read over the past decade. Yes, the last decade.
Yes, there's a lot riding on whether your child grows up as a "reader" or not. And the benefits extend far beyond the verbal section of the SAT.
During a recent blog interview, I was posed this question:
"Phil, if you had to pick one thing that was most responsible for the success you've had thus far in your life, what would it be?"
My answer was simple - good habits.
"Good habits", she replied. "That's it?"
She seemed a little disappointed.
"Yes, good habits," I continued. "While our lives are certainly complex with an infinite number of factors that influence our paths, in some respects, we are nothing more than an accumulation of habits - both good and bad."
The Power of Habit
Habits are a powerful force in our lives, yet we rarely pay attention to them. Here's an old story that illustrates this disconnect:
Two young fish were swimming side-by-side in the ocean when an older fish swam by in the opposite direction. The older fish saw the younger two and greeted them, "Hey guys, how's the water?" he asked. The two younger fish just kept on swimming. A few minutes later, one of the fish looked at the other and said, "What...
It was over two month's ago when I sat down with my 10-year old son to discuss the academic tasks he was assigned over the summer by his 5th grade teacher:
At the time, nothing about these tasks seemed particularly difficult, especially with the "whole summer" to do it.
Preparer or Crammer?
He and I discussed two options:
"Chip away method" - this involved spreading the workload over the entire summer. We did the math, and it came out to roughly 2 pages of reading per day and 1 vocab word and 1 math problem every other day. This amounted to about 8 minutes of concentrated work per day. No big.
"Cram-it-all-in method" - this involved skipping the daily 8-minutes of work in exchange for a 3-week cram session at the end of the summer when all the work had to be completed at once.
We prepared a spreadsheet that mapped out 10 weeks of daily tasks. He could...