One of our regular features on the Ally Learning Home page is “The Book of the Month.” Every month we will feature a book, fiction or non-fiction, which one of our tutors has read and would like to share with both students and parents alike. With March being National Reading Month, there is no better time to launch this feature.

We will try to recommend books that are appropriate for most age groups (The recommended age range will always be included next to the picture of the book). This month I selected the Historical YA novel Between Shades of Gray. I read this novel about a year ago and found that it was accessible as well as educational. It is a set during World War II but focuses on a country and people that most Americans are not as familiar.

Having a “Book of the Month” is part of Ally Learning’s broader goal of helping students improve their reading skills. There are some students that go through all of K-12 and college without ever reading a book which wasn’t assigned to them. At a young age, they see reading as some sort of job instead of something that can also be done for pleasure. In reality, reading a book is often much more satisfying and enjoyable than watching movies or television programs.


Related: Q and A: Raising Kids Who Want To Read


Probably the greatest advantage books have over other mediums of storytelling is the use of one’s imagination. With movies and TV, all the information is given to you via visuals and audio. There is no room for interpretation in the details of how a character or settling looks. In a book, only so much detail can be described through the written word. The reader’s imagination has to fill in the gaps. There is a reason people often say they liked the book better when one of their favorite novels has been adapted into a film; they preferred how story looked in their own mind compared to how the director and actors told them the story to look like. Plus, more often than not the book is actually better. That in and of itself is a good reason to read the occasional book.

Reading books for fun can also help with a student’s academics. A more expansive vocabulary, improved writing and critical thinking skills are just a few of residual effects that reading more commonly produce. All of this will help any student when it’s time for him or her to write an essay.

One universal hindrance that prevents a lot of us from reading for pleasure is time. There is no way around it, reading a book takes up more time than watching a movie. And while there are those who can read an entire 300+ page book in one sitting (I’m not one of them), they are not in the majority. Because this time element exists, sitting down and starting a book can be an intimidating prospect. We have busy lives and it is understandable, especially for students, if they may not always have time or patience for an entire book.

It is a smart idea to set small goals before you sit down and begin reading. One option is to designate a set amount of time (i.e. 1 hour a day). Another option is to set number of pages (i.e. 30-50 pages a day) or chapters (maybe 2-3). I love novels but even I sometimes go a few weeks between books because of this very issue. But once I dig in and get to heart of a book I usually read at my own pace. I will almost always finish a book no matter the quality, though not always. It is perfectly okay to put a book down and never finish it if one is not enjoying it. Like I said at the beginning, Ally wants reading to be a fun activity not one that feels like work. Better to start a new book than sludge through a tedious one.
There is no shortage of genres and books available to us at our libraries, online retailers, and bookstores. No literate person can honestly claim that books aren’t for them. One of my favorite genres since childhood has been Historical Fiction (see Between Shades of Gray) Contemporary American Literature is another favorite. Others have different preference. Young Adult (YA) novels are some of the most popular. Mystery and Science Fiction/Fantasy have their strong and vocal bases. Many people would rather read non-fiction such as biographies.

The preceding are just a few examples of the types of books that are out there to be read. As mentioned above, the local library would be my top choice to gain access to books. One thing better than a good book is a good book that you read free of charge.

Ally Learning
Christopher Kwiecien

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