Strategies for Getting Students to Read


Classroom research suggests that, for any given day and assignment, only 20-30% of the students have completed the assigned course reading, which means instructors are often attempting to facilitate learning when the majority of students have not yet been exposed to the background material or other information necessary to master course concepts.

Eric Hobson, Director of The Excellence in Teaching Center at Georgia Southern University, offers a number of tips for instructors to increase the likelihood that students will read. Among them:

1. Recognize that not every course needs a textbook. If no available text offers a good fit with your course, consider a reading packet or a recommended reading list.

2. Use your syllabus as a teaching tool. A learnercentered syllabus can help students understand why the reading assignments contribute to learning and how they relate to other course content and course activities.

3. Explain the reading assignment’s relevance to the course topic. Making the implicit explicit helps novice readers make the connections between seemingly dissimilar or loosely related items. The more you connect course readings and course learning goals, the more likely students will see the reading material as relevant and worthwhile.

4. Assign reading close to the “use date” — the class session during which the information contained in the reading will be used. When short, but frequent, reading lists are assigned close to the“use date,” students are more likely to read the assignments.

5. Help students “into the text” by previewing the reading. Students are more likely to read an assignment when they’ve been told something interesting about it or about how it connects to previous or future course topics.

6. Include class activities that encourage students to read. Reading guides, study questions and short writing assignments are examples of activities that will engage students in the reading material. (See Teaching Tip for one idea.)

7. Allow in-class time (approximately 15 minutes) for students to read or review material that is central to the class lecture or activities.

8. Teach reading strategies overtly. Some students may need to learn even such basic skills as text marking.

9. Monitor students’ reading. Periodically ask students to anonymously report if they’ve completed the reading assignment for a given class period. There are myriad ways to assess whether students are keeping up on their reading, and you also can gain valuable insight into the beliefs students have about course-linked reading and the rationale(s) they use in choosing to read—or not read—for class. 

10. Get assistance when you need it. Few instructors are trained to teach reading.

Adapted from IDEA Paper #40 Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips by Eric H. Hobson, Georgia Southern University 2004 The IDEA Center