Stacks on stacks of reading. Photo Credit: Pixabay
By Shaquille Profitt
I believe language and literature are a vital part of learning and that it takes a strong reader to make a strong writer. Regardless of one’s major, it is required for college students to read and be able to comprehend piles of information: articles, essays, lab reports, research, interviews, etc.
If this semester has taught me anything, it is that professors never hesitate to assign adequate amounts of readings to keep students occupied. Let’s be real, most students are not doing much of their required course reading.
For this semester, I’m taking a course with more than forty students and most of them are oblivious when asked questions about the readings. Not a lot of students read texts, because they all have fallen victim to the epidemic of classroom boredom. Isn’t boredom just an ordinary side effect of life? Every night of this semester, I’ve had textbooks and articles staring at me and I stare back, hopeful that I will somehow retain all the information while hassling with lack of sleep and stress.
Many students at York have admitted that they don’t read their Chemistry textbook, but would look at lecture notes instead. Professors should not assume they know how much reading is too much for students. As an English major, I’m reading more than one novels as well as undertaking social science courses, which can be burdensome. When it comes to reading, less is more. Less is more, considering time is of the essence and students have jobs and other familial obligations.
We live in a world, where students are glued to buzzing devices, and digitized information. Most students have learned to prioritize their studies amid ruthless workload. Students only read when there’s time and if the readings are easy to take in. After speaking to sophomores and seniors, they have noted that they use SparkNotes to understand difficult readings
“I don’t think you should assign readings to bore students because reading is one of the universal ways by which we learn,” said Cynthia Haller, a professor in the English department. “In some ways, we [teachers] are modeling how students should read and to have a course with no reading, unless it’s independent, deprives students of the experience of reading through a text.”
According to Caleb Crain, The New Yorker, “Between 2003 and 2016, the amount of time that the average American devoted to reading for personal interest on a daily basis dropped from 0.36 hours to 0.29 hours. It would seem that reading in America has declined even further in the past decade.”
Former U.S. President Barack Obama, reads for pleasure and continues his yearly tradition of releasing his reading list as performative. In spite of President Donald Trump’s allergy to reading and language, which have proven danger on his presidency, he could not bother to release anything other than something about himself. A president who sans reading—and fancies verbal briefings and conversations, who also tweets effectively.
When asked about why students don’t read, Haller said, “Because information is available in video, audio, and sound bites, which can be processed in a complicated way, but certain complex ideas are best presented in the text. You can’t grasp what other people say because you are not learning to think or process ideas.”
Haller’s remarks in this conversation stresses the importance of reading. I believe there should be a limit on the number of pages students are given to read. I believe in hands-on learning and professors should incorporate hands-on projects. Most students learn best when they feel for the material. This method should work for all students in all areas of all learning. More hands-on learning can have plenty of benefits on students. For instance, it is more of an engaging learning style, it results in the physical creation of something. It can offer problem-solving, it can lead to increased retention rates. I’m not decrying reading as a form of academic freedom, I’m arguing that there should be a limit considering the amount of work that is placed on students. I do agree with Professor Haller that reading and language are important—in fact, it is the measurement of our lives.
There were many times where the course load seemed unbearable for me, and many of the readings were awfully dreading. I was told by professors to read hundreds of pages in a span of days while wrestling with other courses, tests, quizzes, and Blackboard assignments. There have been times where it was impossible to read material for a certain class. And as a result of that, I would go to class heedless of what’s going on, which caused me to lose participation points.
I found a way: prioritization. I prioritize which classes matter the most and prepare more for them. For classes that required a lot of reading, I would read the material first before working on another class. For classes I enjoyed, I was careful to maintain the grade I wanted by staying on top of my grade. Prioritizing well is the key to excel in all your classes.
We see this pattern not just at York, but at colleges around the country, students have trouble focusing on more than one thing—considering that we live in a technology driven world. Students get distracted from all sorts of things including social media.
Faculty are guilty of this, too—it turns out that many of them are not reading as much anymore. Professors should rethink reading lists for their classes, by including interactive texts, podcasts, and videos as part of course material to create a more modernized learning environment for students to think, learn, and grow.
Students should aim to read as much as they could during a semester and in their lives. By looking at the syllabus, identifying in-depth reading assignments and working on those first can most definitely help.