A great article re dealing with that statement “students don’t like reading”, which we hear over and over, and courses tend to use ‘force’ to try and “encourage” students to read… A new approach:
Recently, I decided to act on this expectation and launched a “Reading Challenge” to my history undergraduates. This voluntary event encourages them to read 20 books for pleasure during their degree. It is not an attempt to force on them a “canon” of worthy literature; it presents them with a wide range of books from which they select titles that interest them.
Those who wish to take part receive a long bibliography broken into sections, including 20th-century fiction, philosophy, short stories and so on. The idea is that they choose and read at least two works from each area until they have reached the required number. Successful participants will receive a certificate and a small prize, but this will not be large enough to be an incentive in its own right.
In planning this with colleagues, it was suggested that we outline how a healthy amount of leisure reading can broaden knowledge, stimulate ideas and sharpen comprehension skills – and thus help improve a student’s chances of gaining higher grades. But I was instinctively resistant to this idea. I didn’t want students to think of this as “work”.
As it’s still in its infancy, I can’t say yet if it has worked. But when I ran the idea past my seminar groups, the reaction was positive – many students indicated that they would like to take part. We are also looking into the possibility of building some form of reading group into the challenge, and another colleague has offered to host an annual round-table discussion on a selected title. The idea is to create a structure that helps guide and motivate students to read for pleasure, supplying direction and encouragement, and – if possible – to build an undergraduate reading culture.
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Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.