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Helping Students Read Effectively

How to get our students to read well is something that most of us think about at some point during our teaching career. Faculty members across the country share this concern as research on student completion of assigned reading has “established compliance with course reading at 20-30% for any given day and assignment” (Hobson, 2004).

Getting our students to read is not an impossible task, and begins with good course design. We should always ask ourselves why we chose a particular reading and how it helps achieve course learning goals.

With effective readings chosen, we can use the following ideas and resources to motivate our students to complete their reading.

Reading Strategies

In September of 2009 Dr. Darsie Bowden of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse and director of the First Year Writing Program, presented a Teaching Commons workshop on reading strategies. She provided numerous ideas and strategies to engage our students in their reading. Perhaps most important was the focus on helping students understand how to read within each of our own disciplines.

Suggested Resources for Getting Students to Read Effectively

References and Further Reading

Bayard, P. (2007). How to talk about books you haven't read. New York: Bloomsbury.

Brown, Matthew. (2007). Undisciplined reading: Finding surprise in how we read. Common-Place, 8(1).

Concepción, D. (2004). Reading philosophy with background knowledge and metacognition. Teaching Philosophy, 27(4), 351-368.

Hayles, N. K. (2010). How we read: Close, hyper, machine. ADE Bulletin, 150.

Hobson, E. H. (2004). Getting students to read: fourteen tips. IDEA Paper, 40.

Dalley, Julie. (2012). Getting students to complete reading assignments—Ideas from teachers for teachers. Teaching and Learning at MSU.

Jabr, Ferris. (2013). The reading brain in the digital age: Why paper still beats screen. Scientific American.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. (2007). How reading is being reimagined. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(15).

Nilson, L.B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Piper, Andrew. (2012).Book was there: Reading in electronic times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

What is a reader? (2010). Retrieved from

Wolf, MaryAnne. (2008).Proust and the squid: The story and science of the reading brain. New York: Harper.

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