Do Students Read Textbooks? Not So Much

By Kalani Reyes

Recent studies show many college students don’t read academic text books.

According to the study “Reading to Learn or Learning to Read? Engaging College Students in Course Readings” by researcher Mary Margaret Kerr published Sept. 9, 2016 in College Teaching Journal found that when students are assigned class readings, only 20 to 30 percent of them do it.

The study by Kerr, along with other recent research from Angela Jenks in Cultural Anthropology journal published August 2016, found there are some reasons for the lack of reading: unpreparedness, lack of motivation, time constraints and an underestimation of reading importance.

“Most of the students I meet do want to learn,” wrote Sarah Hatteberg in Teaching Sociology journal. “But in addition to time pressures, many students struggle to read effectively. It is often difficult for them to identify central facts and arguments, to evaluate evidence or to critically engage with the material.”

Other reasons might include the struggle of balancing life and school with work and family.

Though students may struggle to find the motivation to read, the problem is not so much their lack of motivation but their lack of comprehension, according to Zend Lakdavala, a specialist in North Las Vegas campus Centers for Academic Success. Lakdavala, who worked at the Center since 2002 often sees students who come in with nearly completed assignments. “You can tell by the writing that the student has missed the entire point of the essay,” he said. “Even if you do it thoroughly, the point is how much do you grasp?”

Poor comprehension perpetuates a cycle of reading deficiencies often leading students to quickly memorize a few facts instead of understanding the subject for long-term retention and use, according to the article “Reading Habits of College Students in the United States” published in Reading Psychology in 2014.

An informal anonymous survey of 15 College of Southern Nevada students conducted on Google Forms from Sept. 18 to 20 showed that 48 percent of students thought reading textbooks for classes was very important and the other 52 percent did not.

Most students reported spending just one hour reading per class per week, according to the survey. More hours were spent by students who were more driven in their courses connected to their majors.

When asked what options students preferred to do over reading, they said hands-on learning such as group activities and individual projects, followed by the option of having a more in-depth lecture were chosen most. The third option was to watch videos related to the subject, which students also favored.

Colleen Gerardo, CSN English professor, came to CSN in 2013 and has been instrumental in developing the reading curriculum at the College.

According to Gerardo, CSN students who placed in ENG 101 Composition I or above on the English placement test were found to pass classes that included a lot of reading at a much higher rate than students who placed below ENG 101 especially in core classes.

When students need to build their skills in reading, they often enroll in Read 99, a one-credit course that improves their skills up to one-to-four years of growth, Gerardo added.

CSN’s reading center is available to help students who cannot take that course. It helps students learn a lot of skills: active-reading strategies, learning vocabulary, textbook annotation, note taking, studying systems, research skills and individualized lessons to help them grasp reading concepts.

“The Centers for Academic Success is so important because it allows people to overcome the ‘deficiency’ mindset,” said Shannon Prestridge, writing assistant at the North Las Vegas campus. “You’re not here because you’re lacking; you’re here because we want to help you grow.”

In the upcoming year CSN will launch a developmental-reading program for incoming freshmen who score in developmental reading on the placement exam. They will be required to take a course to prepare them for college-level reading.

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