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Tutor in a Book Review by Kathy Gelzer

Alexandra Mayzler and Ana McGann
Adams Media
57 Littlefield Street
Avon, MA 02322

I wish I'd had this book a couple of years ago when I was teaching a Study Skills class at co-op! Organization, time management, and study skills: these are the three focus areas of Tutor in a Book, written by two women who met at college and went on to create the Thinking Caps Skills Course. This five-part book, divided into ten chapters, is written to students in middle and high school and their parents.

Chapter One solicits the parents' empathy and help for their children. Creating a supportive environment with a predictable daily schedule gives students the structure they need to develop good study habits. Communication tips for broaching the subject of school and homework are included.

Learning styles is the subject of the second chapter. There is a description of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners as well as a quick diagnostic to see what kind of learner your child is. Learning differences are also covered here: ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Executive Functioning, Language Processing, and Memory Deficits.

Chapter Three is where you and your student, using the included questionnaires, assess strengths and weaknesses in the area of study skills and set academic goals. In this and many of the following chapters, a scenario featuring fictional characters helps to illustrate the points.

Organization is the topic of Chapter Four. First of all, the authors discuss two different systems for organizing school notes and papers with either a three-ring binder or with spiral theme books and folders. Some suggestions for setting up a work space are also included here, but I felt the discussion lacked some important details, such as the need for good lighting and having all supplies handy so you don't have to gather them each time you hit the books. However, the most important feature of a good study space--minimal distractions--is emphasized.

Time management is the topic of the next chapter. Writing down assignments, making a schedule, avoiding perfectionism, and prioritizing are all covered. Specific strategies for bigger assignments (such as reports and tests) are here as well. While the research process is mentioned as one of the key steps in the paper-writing process, you won't find research instructions in the book. The chapter wraps up with a section on preparing for midterms and finals.

Chapter Six teaches you how to learn: how to take notes, how to read textbooks (as opposed to reading for pleasure), how to take notes from a text, how to write an outline, how to read literature (some excellent tips here), and how to write a five-paragraph essay.

Maintenance Work is the topic of Chapter Seven. I've never seen this important subject covered before. In each of five general class subjects (math, science, history, English, and foreign language) the authors present methods of remembering and reviewing the course material so that you keep up with what you are learning. This is the opposite of the crisis mode in which students often operate. This proactive approach will serve the student well.

The last chapter in this section addresses how to talk to your teachers.

The next section of the book is devoted to test-taking skills--from memory tricks to assimilation and comprehension to specific test type strategies to self-testing games to subject-specific suggestions to actually taking the test. This chapter deserves a "bravo"!

The last chapter in the book is an eight-week emergency plan for survival in the trenches.

Lots of planning forms and graphic organizers are included throughout the book to help the student. These would fit in a small planner or binder.

Although Tutor in a Book is directed to students in a classroom, I recommend it for older children who need to learn how to take more responsibility for their own learning or those who need to learn how to manage their time. It would also be a great college prep book for your highschooler!

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine , LLC, November 2010