How to Improve Reading Ability

Some new evidence has come out about the dismal reading level of most college students. The source of the research is Renaissance Learning, an American assessment and analytics company that makes widely used online educational software for K-12 students.

College freshman, on average, are assigned books rated at the 7th grade level.

Their extensive research report has quite a bit of useful information in it about how much and what students are reading, and what factors contribute to the most success in reading. A chart on page 42 shows that college freshman, on average, are assigned books rated at the 7th grade level.

Sadly, it also shows that books for adults on the New York Times bestseller lists average a 5.6 grade level for fiction and 7.6 grade level for non fiction!

If we help students with comprehension they will experience real competency and be encouraged read more.
— Marsha Familaro Enright

At our Great Connections seminars, we read classic texts from philosophy, science, literature, history—you name it. And we read them together in such a way that students learn how to understand and read difficult, but rich, material, such as Newton’s Principia, Epictetus’ Handbook, Blake’s The Tiger, or Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy. No mere 7th grade level for our students!

Renaissance Learning’s report argues that comprehension, volume, and challenge are key factors. We find that if we help students with comprehension of the most challenging but best-written texts available, what the University of Chicago’s famed president Robert Maynard Hutchins called “The best that has been thought and said,” they will experience real competency and be encouraged read more.

Marsha Familaro Enright