There’s a ton of research on the benefits of reading. It says reading sharpens our minds to help us understand complex structures, develops sophisticated conceptual connections, expands our use and facility with language, introduces diverse thinking that strengthens our own, improves writing, and, when we deep read, moves us into a heightened state of existence. Reading affirms the importance of community and can introduce us to brave and outspoken people we would never otherwise encounter, who surprise us, undo us, restore us. James Baldwin says: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” Let’s get students to read more, inside and outside of their disciplines, across genres.
For those of you who teach, talk to your students about what you’re reading, everything you read—-Eduardo C Corral’s poems, a letter from your father, the peer-reviewed article in PsychInfo, a dissertation, Bernadette Murphy, Claudia Rankine, the latest from Dr. Pop. Tell them why reading matters to you, what it does for you, what it can do for them. That in no insignificant way it helped make you who you are.
It makes sense that some students will struggle in university with what might be a new kind of reading and struggling with reading certain texts could impede their ability to write. There is a link between a lack of reading comprehension and plagiarism. Raise the issue–reading can be hard. Make it a point of discussion in class, things you do to untangle a difficult text or suggest that students might want to meet with you, a librarian or writing tutor, or form their own group to learn to make sense of a reading.
In case you’re interested, here are some names of ‘reading researchers’ and advocates: Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, Anne Cunningham, Ray Hiebert and Elfrieda Reutzel, Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, Carol Dweck, Marianne Wolf, Judith C. Roberts and Keith A. Roberts, Sheridan Blau, Kelly Gallagher, Patrick Sullvan, and Stephen Krashen.
And remember, your Antioch Libraries have really good reading material, on our stacks, in-house and digital, and if we don’t own it a sister library does and will be happy to get it for you. Send your students to us, send yourselves to us, and read on.
Karen Hamilton ’17 (Antioch Los Angeles, MA) is Antioch's Director of Marketing for Content and Communications. She has used her storytelling and copywriting skills for more than twenty years, crafting articles and creating publications. She believes that communication is a powerful driver for social change.