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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Common reading should expand to all freshmen

    All incoming honors students are given a common book at orientation to read and think about so they have a common point or theme to discuss in their freshmen honors colloquiums.

    The UA Honors College has used a common reading program since 2006, and this program should be expanded to all incoming freshmen.

    Generally, the common reading book and related activities are selected in the fall by honors students and teachers in relevant classes, like English, for use the next summer.

    Although not all freshmen will take a small, discussion-based class first semester, common readings can also be used in English 101 classes, which are typically small enough to facilitate ice-breaking discussions during the awkward first day of class.

    “The common reading program gives all entering students a starting point for intellectual conversation; it builds community,” said Patricia MacCorquodale, dean of the Honors College.
    The Association of American Colleges and Universities promoted common reading programs in a 2006 article in the journal Peer Review, stating, “Reading the same book brings people closer together as a community by creating common ground for discussion.”

    The opportunity to have lively and interesting discussions is part of the first-year experience that the Honors College has tried so hard to promote. Why should non-Honors students not benefit similarly?

    For students coming from out of state or those who simply don’t know many people on campus, meeting people and having intimate and intelligent conversations with them could be difficult. As MacCorquodale said, common reading programs “bring students together” and “create a sense of community, and often friendships.”

    Taylor Boyd, a junior in the Honors College studying microbiology, agreed, saying that she “found the Honors College Common Reading Program at the UA to be instrumental in facilitating conversations and opening the door to discussion and debate.”

    Common reading programs also promote a higher level of literacy that a lot of college students seem to lack. An American Institutes for Research study found that a whopping 50 percent of students attending a four-year university do not score at a proficient level of literacy. The article cites students not being able to summarize a newspaper article or adequately compare credit card offers.

    Students shouldn’t necessarily be forced to rush to the library and read classics like “A Tale of Two Cities,” “The Brothers Karamazov” or “Crime and Punishment,” but reading a novel for once, as opposed to a chapter of a textbook, could help excite students about reading and promote literacy.

    In my experience, the common reading program was incredibly beneficial in terms of sparking debate and intelligent conversation in my classes. I read “The Tortilla Curtain” by T.C. Boyle, an insightful novel that explored illegal immigration and the “curtain” that separates the United States and Central and South America. Not only was the book interesting, it led to discussions about politically and culturally relevant topics like immigration and racial profiling.

    Common reading not only promotes intelligent conversation and builds community, but it also encourages cultural sensitivity, literacy and reading for fun — something a lot of students have given up on. Students outside of the honors college deserve that opportunity too.

    Nick Havey is a sophomore studying Spanish and pre-physiology. Follow him on Twitter.com/@nihavey.

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