The reading habit

Today many college students do not read well because they do not develop the reading skills when they were in high school and elementary school. If we look further we can find that the problems students face in reading for deeper understanding are based on the teaching that does not foster critical thinking but only memorizing.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic are the most fundamental skills that all students must have. But today most classroom time is spent by the teachers giving a lecture so they can complete the curriculum within the allotted time. Some teachers even give the answers to students rather than allow them to read, think, analyze, to come up with their own answers. Many parents want their children to do well on exams so they pressure the teachers to “teach to the test” instead of learning the content by reading and thinking critically.

Since many students do NOT need to read well they cannot comprehend complex materials, or know how to synthesize information they cannot develop the critical thinking skills needed to do well in this fast-changing world. Although they can still memorize a lot of theories to pass exams but cannot apply what they know to solve problems. As their knowledge is shallow, mostly on the surface, they cannot innovate, create or go further in their learning .

Many teachers are also NOT trained to help develop these skills for their students. Some received inadequate training in teaching when they were students. They just follow the routine of memorizing the materials then give back by lecturing in class instead of having a class discussion where students and teachers discuss the subject in a deeper and more meaningful conversation.

In an Active learning environment, teachers and students are engaging in an open conversation about the subject matter where they read, think, and analyzing the materials with one another. The discussion foster deeper thinking about the subjects where the teachers guide the discussion from the basics to a deeper level of complexity. In that case, students learn more and willing to take on any challenge that will help them in their future careers and become lifelong learners.

To develop critical thinking skills, students must learn to read broadly. They must develop the reading habit when they are still young. The fact is young children will read anything that they are interested in. This is why parents need to help them to develop the reading habit by having more books at home and spend time reading with them. However, for young children, reading should come from printing books, NOT from a laptop because it is easy for them to get distracted by other applications such as video games or social media. Parents must make reading a family activity where they and their children read and enjoy the materials together. This is essential to develop a good reading habit when children are still young because if they lose the interest in reading, it will continue throughout the school years and it is difficult to change when became adults.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University