Increased reading skills help students fight stress

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Read 10 pages for astronomy, 40 pages for Greek and Roman mythology and 20 pages for history of creativity, all by tomorrow.

Welcome to college.

Students can easily get overwhelmed with the amount of reading they have to accomplish before their classes each day. Quantity isn’t the only issue though, as college reading proves more advanced than high school literature.

“Reading Harry Potter and reading a chemistry textbook are two different things,” said Marne B. Isakson, BYU professor of student development.

Isakson was hired at BYU after she retired from being a reading instructor, to develop a course to help students more effectively manage their reading loads. Her course is called “advanced reading strategies.”

Isakson worked with students, faculty members and several academic offices on campus to find out what students needed in a reading course.

“Through the study we’ve established the five most essential and most influential strategies for students out of the 27 strategies that we teach,” Isakson said. “The five are the survival strategies, not the scholarly strategies.”

Isakson expected mostly freshman to take her class, but almost 90 percent of students the first few years were upperclassmen. These students were diligent and had high GPAs. She said upperclassmen said they wished they had learned reading skills from Isakson as freshmen.

“I think it can be really beneficial to anybody, whether or not you think you need help with reading,” said Heidi Rees, a junior studying English from College Station, Texas. “The course helps students do better in college and do better in reading heavy careers.”

The course, originally designed for freshmen, had one flaw: freshmen couldn’t get into the course because it was full by the time they registered. Isakson decided to set aside one section for freshmen and only three signed up.

Isakson found that many freshmen coming out of high school as top students were unaware of the expected amount and level of college reading.

“The most interesting thing we researched was defining that there’s a large gap between what students do and what professors do when they read,” said Zach Loud, Isakson’s research assistant.

Loud said that most freshman and students don’t understand that they need to learn how to read academically.

“Most students think that all their problems could be solved if they could just read faster and that’s just not true at all,” Isakson said. “They need to learn to read more strategically.”

Most professors expect students to explain, analyze and apply the concepts. Additionally, they are expected to form opinions, defend them and have thought-provoking ideas — simply from reading a textbook.

“Students are not lazy; they are not dumb; they are not unmotivated,” Isakson said. “They want to do well; they are plenty bright. They just don’t know how. That’s what our course is designed to help out with.”

Students can access the top five reading tips at the website for the Center for Teaching and Learning: ctl.byu.edu/teaching-tips/.

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