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Getting Students to Read

"Having spent many years in a highly literate environment, we tend to take a similar level of literacy in our students as a given. Many of them, on the other hand, have gotten along reasonably well without getting too entangled with the subtleties of the written word." (Leamnson 31)

Studies over a thirty year period indicate that on any given day, only 20-30% of the students will have read the assignment. While many researchers suggest a closer look at the reading levels of texts, here are a few other suggestions for getting students to read.

  • Link class activities projects, tests, and assignments to the important issues in the readings.
    1. Provide a brief preview of the material to be read for the next class session.
    2. Ask a student to summarize the reading assignment, at the onset of each class. If students routinely expect this, they are more likely to read.
    3. Use reading guides that "ask questions about the major concepts or issues, so that students learn how to identify them and the examples or details which support or explain those concepts. Refer to [and/or apply] these questions in class."
    4. Assign short in-class writing assignments which require the students to make connections between what is read and what has been discussed in class.
    5. Avoid lecturing as if the students have never seen the material before. If you are going to lecture over everything in the reading, what is their motivation for reading?
  • "Explain the relevance of the readings in the course syllabus, and throughout the semester. This is especially important for the novice learner who has difficulty making connections between what is obvious and what is implied."
  • In introductory courses, overtly teach/model reading strategies, such as how to mark texts. While we would assume a college student would know how to do so, keep in mind high school students are not allowed to mark texts because they cannot keep their books. Faculty who are not comfortable with this strategy might consider talking to faculty who teach reading for suggestions. You might also check out the following site on marking texts, or refer it to your students: Maximize Comprehension by Marking Your Texts.
  • "Construct online, open book, reading quizzes." Use your D2L course site to construct short quizzes that require students to read, assimilate the information, and "keep up."
  • Allow short (five to ten minutes) silent reading periods in class over "high priority" material. For this to be effective, and to minimize distractions, you must expect everyone to be quiet. Follow this quiet reading period with an in-class activity, (not a break).
  • Use random questioning. This can be done by putting all students' names on index cards, shuffling and picking a card randomly. While this may seem a bit "over the top," with time, students expect this practice and come to class having read the material. After a student has answered a question, have them pick the next card. Students feel less "picked on" because it's just "the luck of the draw."


Hobson, E. H. "Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips." The Excellence in Teaching Center. Georgia Southern U., 2007. Web. 19 May 2010.

Prostko, J. "Getting Students to Read." Insights: Faculty Development. UMBC Faculty Development Center, 2007. Web. 19 May 2010.

Leamnson, Robert. Thinking About Teaching and Learning: Developing Habits of Learning with First Year College and University Students. Sterling: Stylus, 1999. Print.

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