Teaching Reading

Graduate students and professors – those who teach college classes – are (and usually have always been) avid readers.  They sometimes forget that, in this respect, they are not (and probably never have been) like the average freshman student. Over the years they have acquired far more sophisticated reading skills than most freshmen students, many of whom do not read much, do not like to read, and are unconvinced that reading is the best use of their time.

New instructors are sometimes surprised when they run into some or all of the following three problems:

  1. Students don’t do the assigned reading.
  2. Students struggle with the assigned reading. They don’t understand vocabulary and references, miss key points and misinterpret the author’s meaning.
  3. Students don’t know how to read critically.  Many students arrive at college relatively inexperienced and relatively unused to being exposed to non-normative ideas or beliefs that differ from their own.

So how can you address these problems?

  • ASSESS your students reading abilities to get a sense of where they are.
  • Work with the students to help them improve their reading comprehension.
  • Be prepared to provide your students with some key analytical tools that they can bring to bear when asked to critically analyze a text.

Links and resources

Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips.”  Eric Hobson’s discussion of the problem, its causes and some suggestions for what to do about it. This is paper no. 40 of the IDEA papers
Robert Scholes “Transitions to College Reading”
York University – Teaching reading skills and critical reading
York University - Handout for students on active reading strategies
Getting students to read for class