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Why Aren't Students Reading?
What Can Faculty Do?


Newsletter of Teaching & Learning at Penn State York

Best Practices, Teaching Tips, Ideas, Resources, What's NEW!!

Volume 2 Issue 4 November/December 2007

Last summer I started a second master's degree in language development, specifically in reading, because I've wanted to answer a nagging question for myself: Why aren't students reading? After speaking informally with many faculty members, it is apparent that this issue is impacting many of us. We know that students need to read in order to learn and we know that reading impacts their ability to write effectively, so why aren't they doing more of it?

Recently I attended an interesting videoconference, offered through PaTTAN, Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network, called A Good Start is Not Enough: Improving Reading Achievement for Older Readers. The presenter was Dr. Timothy Shanahan from the University of Illinois at Chicago who began with some interesting statistics that gave me some answers to my question.

Did you know that 4th graders in the US test either first or second in the world in all subjects?!  But, by the time these same kids reach 8th grade, they are down to 15th place in reading achievement, and by the time they ready 12th grade, Dr. Shanahan said that he'd need the rest of the time to read the list of countries that score above our graduating seniors in reading achievement. A whopping 50% of graduating seniors in the US test at a basic level of reading which means they can barely get by on the literacy skills they have. Are we surprised then by what we see in our college classrooms?

So what's going on? How can we respond? READ MORE


In this Issue

  • Feature Article: Why Aren't Students Reading: What Can Faculty Do?
  • Q & A - How can we help students gain stronger literacy skills?
  • Article of Interest -Using a Reading Strategy to Foster Active Learning in Content Area Courses, by Margaret Fritz (2002)
  • WHAT'S NEW - Online tutorials including: Strategies to Build Reading Skills for Academic Texts, ANGEL 7 updates, PSU texting for Campus emergencies/closures, eLearning group meets
  • Upcoming Workshops - Spring Workshop ideas, Call for topics


question mark Q & A

Reading and writing are two major ways that students learn in college. We see the literacy skills that students have when they get to us diminishing. In what ways do you support students' attainment of stronger literacy skills in your courses?

Respond to me at and I'll compile an anonymous list for the next newsletter.

Article of Interest

Using a Reading Strategy to Foster Active Learning in Content Area Courses, by Margaret Fritz, Assistant Professor at the University of Toledo describes using the K-W-L (what do you already KNOW about a topic; what do you WANT to know, what have you LEARNED after reading) reading strategy to turn passive lectures into active ones while at the same time giving students strategies to support their academic reading skill development as well as critical thinking skills and promoting interaction between faculty and students.

Read the article HERE

Fritz, M. (2002). Using a Reading Strategy to Foster Active Learning in Content Area   Courses. Journal of College Reading and Learning , 32 (2), 189-194.

newspaper boy

*** Don't forget to sign up for the new emergency PSU texting service. Be notified immediately of any campus emergencies or closures. Sign up at

*** Online Tutorials Expanded!
Online Offerings - available anytime, anywhere with Internet connection - contact me upon completion for my records and for a certificate

reading tutorial

* So Your Students Aren't Reading HERE
*Integrating Technology into your Courses HERE
* Web 2.0 Tools Overview HERE
* Using eGames to Support Knowledge Building in your Courses HERE  
* Designing Assignments that Avoid the Pitfalls of Plagiarism HERE
* Learning Styles: Understanding and Accounting for Differences Among Students HERE

Online Quicksheets

* What is RSS? HERE
* What is a Wiki? HERE
* Discussion Strategies HERE

*** ANGEL 7.2 is coming - Spring 2008
What's in testing now for possible integration?

  1. Blog and Wiki tools
  2. Mapping course and program standards

Resources available to you now;

  1. Video Series of ANGEL Tools
  2. ANGEL Hub - all things ANGEL 7
  3. One-on-one help sessions - e-mail me

*** The eLearning subgroup of the TLTAC Committee is underway!! Stay tuned for updates and information as we progress!!

Workshop Schedule and Professional Development Opportunities

Spring planning is underway!!! Please contact me with topics of interest or Conversations in Teaching sessions you would like to facilitate!!

Breeze Online Workshops - - No registration or RSVP required, just login to the room by clicking the link above. Dates & Times:

Friday, November 16, 2007, 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007, 11:00 a.m to noon

For more information about Breeze, and to check on upcoming demonstrations, go to


breeze log-in                      


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    Previous Newsletters

    Sept/October 2007: Using ANGEL to Prepare Online Back-up Lessons

    March/April 2007: Rekindling the Fire of Enthusiasm

    Jan/Feb 2007:
    Bridging the HS to College Gap

    Nov/Dec 2006 : Assessment

    Sept/Oct 2006 : Preparing for the First Day

    July/August 2006
    : Social Computing

    May/June 2006 : Faculty Roles in Student Retention

    April 2006 :
    Using Discussion Boards Effectively

    Contact Me

    Suzanne C. Shaffer,M.Ed.
    Instructional Design eLearning Support
    Penn State York Campus
    ISTC 202
    AOL IM: PSU York ID

    Teaching Tip

        I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.
                         Woody Allen (1935 - )

    Require reading in your courses. Model how you break down difficult academic texts. Give them opportunitites to practice with your guidance. Let them know what they will have to DO with the reading. Make explicit connections between reading, writing, and learning.