R²: Decriminalizing Reading

ReadingthuRsday-R2pleasureinlearning is pleased to present the first in a new Thursday series, R². Faculty members from different disciplines will share their strategies for emphasizing reading in their classes. Today’s post is the work of Greg Bridgeman, aka bridge707, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice.

Have you ever noticed that when you mention the word “reading” to your students, you get one of two reactions: a look of disgust or a look of resignation? In the Criminal Justice program reading is so critical that we have added additional reading assignments over and above the textbook. These assignments include novels, true crime dramas, classics, court case synopses and a variety of other materials that cause  students to get out of their comfort zone.

Greg Bridgeman guarding his office door

Greg Bridgeman guarding his office door

When the college decided that our QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan) would deal with reading, we immediately implemented supplemental readings in all Criminal Justice courses. The technique utilized was the simple process of requiring students to submit a book report each term. Books were selected by the instructor and standardized throughout the program. The weeping and wailing of the students was loud and long. Interestingly enough, when the book reports were turned in, it was amazing how their viewpoints had changed.

The Bookshelf of Sherlock Holmes

The Bookshelf of Sherlock Holmes (Photo credit: bcostin)

The assignment itself is quite simple. The student is required to prepare a two-page report. This report includes a synopsis of the material, and the student’s view of the material. During the time I have used this process, many of the students who swore they hated to read have turned in reports stating they want to know what else this particular author has written. There is one exception to this, and that is my class that requires students to read Supreme Court opinions, which they all hate.

When selecting books for students to read it is not my goal to find something students will enjoy. Quite the contrary, it is to find material that is different than what the student is used to dealing with. If you challenge a student and explain why you’re challenging him or her, they will get behind the project.

"To be successful at reading comprehensio...

“To be successful at reading comprehension, students need to …” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

It is my belief that success is dependent upon an individual’s ability to read, assimilate, evaluate, and utilize the information that they have read. The purpose may be for simple entertainment, the increase of one’s vocabulary, or the personal satisfaction of understanding what it is someone is talking about. We as educators must challenge our students. Reading seems to be one of the challenges that our students need at this point in time. In a world where most of us get our news and information via electronic sources, our ability to read is being lost. It is up to us to bring this critical skill back to the forefront of education.

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5 comments on “R²: Decriminalizing Reading

  1. kencasey99 says:

    Good job Greg; A few years ago, I was assigned to assess your book reports for the learning outcomes. I still remember a student of yours and the book report on Serpico–that student was engaged and excited by his reading even though he clearly expected to hate the book before he even started.–Ken Casey

  2. Thanks for showing us how it’s done, Greg. Apparently you can lead horses to water AND make them drink after all. You are a true reading champion.

  3. Thanks Greg!! You have validated what I have always thought and am beginning to notice in my Psychology classes. I make assignments with a psychological theme. These are topics you would not choose as material for enjoyment. I also noticed at the beginning of the assignments students mumble about not being able to find things pertinent to the text material. At the end of the term my students are commenting on how much they are enjoying the readings. They are now investigating other resources and bringing their findings to class to “show and tell”! Some have even subscribed to psychological journals!!! Miracles never seem to cease!! Thanks again. I hope others will learn from your experience. – Anne Stahl

  4. Thanks Greg! Honestly, I worry about adding more reading to a course because students already skip reading the textbook. I’m working to overcome my fears, though. At this very moment I am writing an assignment to have students review an article in my Intro to Computers class. Wish me luck!

  5. Amanda Sauermann says:

    Thanks, Greg, for your input. I really like what you said about reading, assimilating, evaluating, and then using information. I often explain to students that reading well is a survival skill; your observations above really speak to that theory.

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