So two weeks later, I gave a quiz over the reading for that week. The first question on the quiz was:
I ___________ read Articles #12-14 on Poverty.”
b. did not
There were three other short answer questions on the quiz, each on asking for the gist of the article. I didn’t ask any “picky” questions, or any detailed “trick” questions. All I wanted to know is if they’d read the articles and had a basic comprehension of the main ideas of each. The reading totalled less than 25 pages.
Most of the class finished very quickly. This worried me. And when I graded the quiz right after class, my fears were confirmed.
100% of the class answered “b.” to the first question–not one student had read the articles.
The “answers” (read “excuses”) I got from my students were pretty typical. I heard these before.
- I really don’t have time to read all my school assignments.
- I didn’t think the articles were that interesting.
- (Students who read them last semester said they were very interesting.)
- I couldn’t find my book. (Seriously??!!!!)
And while these answers didn’t thrill, the one that broke my heart–the one I hear most often–was:
- I don’t really like to read. (Often accompanied by the qualifier, “That is, books. I avoid them if at all possible.”)
Even as I write this, my heart is heavy and I get discouraged. Am I failing as an instructor? What is going on?
There are a number of reasons, I think, why students don’t read. Here’s my beginning list, and I would invite any of the readers of this blog (if there are any out there) to add to the list or elaborate on these:
- Students don’t feel competent or confident in their own reading skills.
- Students weren’t really required and held accountable for reading in high school.
- What students HAVE read in school has been boring, so they assume ANY school (even college) reading is boring.
- The reading is too complex for their current reading level. (For college transfer courses at YC, we require only a 9th grade reading level. It’s almost impossible to find books in sociology and psychology that are written at that level.)
- Perhaps the biggest reason is that, for many of our students, technology (that is, entertainment technologies, including smart phones) have replaced text as the primary medium of communication. Books (even e-Books) and reading is seen as “old fashioned” and unimportant in todays tech society.
I see getting students to read as one of the foremost challenges for professors. Yet developing a love of reading–which goes hand in hand with a love of learning–is perhaps our primary task.