Georgia College implements new first-year reading program, giving students more choices

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For some, the college summer-reading assignment is a distant memory. For others, it’s just been assigned – and maybe that book will get read.
But odds are – it won’t.
Acknowledging this reluctance for reading the first-year book – a trend that’s grown more pervasive in the computer age – Georgia College will now require approximately 1480 first-year students to browse 28 essay topics. They’ll choose one that interests them and read the six- to 15-page essay prior to the first week of classes, when they’ll discuss the topic in small faculty-led seminars and do reflective writing.
This moves the common experience of one book to a common experience of reading, called GCREADS.
“What we have found – and what other First-Year Experience professionals shared at the most recent national meeting – is more and more students were not reading the entire book. Most were reading the first 30 pages or so, and sometimes they weren’t reading it at all,” said Dr. Carolyn Denard, associate provost for student success and director of the Center for Student Success.
“We think the lack of full engagement in the book came from busy summer schedules but also because students weren’t interested in a book that was chosen for them,” she said. “So, we’re trying to give students more freedom in the choice of what they read. We’re focusing more on the practice of reading, not the topic.”
Denard co-chairs the “First-year Book Committee” with Dr. Andy Lewter, dean of students. This committee meets each year to choose Georgia College’s ‘common reader.’ This spring, the committee brainstormed ideas and researched practices at other universities. They came across a new program at Boise State University in Idaho, where first-year students are given 14 essays to choose from. The idea is – if students are interested in the topic, they will read it.
But Denard’s committee …

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