By Gena Khodos, North Shore College Consulting Essay Coach

As worried as you were about your child getting into college, we know you are equally as worried about his success once he actually gets there. This worry is not without merit: college will be a new challenge and you want to make sure that your child has all the tools he needs to ensure academic achievement. There are numerous things that can be done to prepare students for entering a post-secondary institution, but luckily one of the most helpful ones is also the easiest: expansive reading.  This is because your propensity for “deep reading,” may be one of the strongest indicators of post high school success.

The number of studies highlighting the benefits of reading is innumerable. Work by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown illustrated that reading for pleasure produces important benefits across a variety of academic disciplines (including math) and that “reading is actually linked to increased cognitive progress over time.” French sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron found that the influence of language skills developed through reading, conversation, and family life “never ceases to be felt” across an individual’s life span. And the benefits go much deeper than vocabulary: “Language is not simply an instrument of communication: it also provides, together with a richer or poorer vocabulary, a more or less complex system of categories, so that the capacity to decipher and manipulate complex structures, whether logical or aesthetic,” depends partly on the complexity of the language a student possesses.

All that can be boiled down into a very simple piece of advice: if kids want to be well prepared for college, they need to read more books! Voracious readers are better writers, better thinkers, and better communicators. Additionally, your son or daughter will be hard pressed to find a college professor who will expect anything less than careful and critical reading.

At first glance you may consider outside reading less important than your child’s other obligations, however, high level reading is crucial for the college prep process and deserving of their effort and attention.

So what am I recommending? I recommend that you start to find a way right now to incorporate reading and to make it an important part of your and their life. A great deal of research has been done on the importance of free choice in building engagement with reading, so choosing what your child is interested in is a great way for him or her to start. They can read whatever books or articles they want. But I would caution away from texts focusing on celebrity gossip or the latest fashion trends. While they are, indubitably interesting, they may not present much of a challenge or a cognitive stretch. Fiction is a great place to start. Fiction books are great because they allow us to imagine a life other than our own which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of Twitter friendly thinking, and staying within the world of a book gives us the ability to be quiet and focused.  So go ahead and help your child choose a meaty novel. This kind of reading requires sustained concentration that will help them develop a number of important cognitive skills, including the capacity to focus their attention for longer periods of time and the ability to monitor and direct their reading processes (metacognition). These skills will be vitally important to them in college and beyond.

Not sure where to find the book that will be both engaging and challenging? My recommendation is to start with the award winners. Prize winning books are important because they encapsulate the pulse of American popular and literary conscience. They are also likely to pop up as required reading in class, giving your child a leg up on his classmates!

Most respected literary prizes in the world:

1.  Man Booker Prize is awarded to writers of full-length novels from the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.

4321 by Paul Auster

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Winner)

Autumn by Ali Smith


2.  The Pulitzer Prize is given to those in newspaper or online journalism, literature, or music.

Imagine me Gone by Adam Haslett

The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Winner)

3.  Hugo Award is given to writers of science fiction or fantasy and categories include Best Novel, Best Graphic Story and Best Fan Writer.

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Winner)

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

4.  National Book Award is one of the most prestigious US literature prizes, with four categories available - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature, as well as two lifetime awards.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Winner)

Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

So grab your Kindle or head over to library and help your child find his next favorite book!