Eager to know their real reading practice, I recently conducted an informal conversation focusing on what, how much, and how long they read per week with three students on my campus. Here are their responses.
When asked about their view of the essence of reading, they unanimously agreed that reading is not only important but also crucial in learning. For them, the essence of reading for mastering the course content, enlarging knowledge, building vocabulary, promoting thinking skills, and improving writing skills cannot be replaced by other skills or tools.
When asked what and how much they read, and how long it takes to read it, the first student, majoring in Biology education, stated that she regularly read textbooks and articles assigned by her lecturers. ‘Now I’m taking 5 classes, and each class necessitates me to read at a chapter of the textbook. Sometimes additional texts like articles and lab reports are added. I estimate I read 110 pages per week, and I need about 2 hours every day, five days per week, to finish reading these texts,” She elucidated.
“So you need 10 hours or 600 minutes to read the 110 pages. That means you read a page in 5.5” I added.
“Yes, reading and making notes. While reading, I also make some notes, particularly about the important points,” she replied.
The second student, majoring in the EFL program said, “I’m also taking 5 classes this semester. Totally, I read about 125 pages, consisting of textbook chapters and modules plus some additional reading like scientific, magazine and website articles or a short story each week. I read for 3 hours per day from Monday to Friday. So, more or less, I read them in 15 hours.”
“You read the 125 pages in 15 hours. That means you need 7.2 minutes to read a page. Does it include summarizing or writing a reading response?” I asked her.
"Not really. I do mark some difficult words or underline main points. But summarizing and writing reader responses are excluded from the 15 hours. I read slower than this guy (the students majoring in Biology) because my texts are in English, and her texts are in Indonesian,” she clarified.
The third student, majoring in Mathematics education, he reads about 120 pages a week. I need about 14 hours to read them. That’s equal to 7 minutes per page. But it also includes finishing related math problems assigned by my lecturers.”
When I asked them whether they understand the texts they read quite thoroughly by spending 5.5, 7.2, and 7 minutes to read one page, they predicted, despite their note-taking and marking on the texts, they grasp only about 50 to 60% of the text contents.
Various studies show that average adults read 300 wpm. College students, since they keep on reading, are supposed to read 450 wpm. These students read a textbook page in 6 to 7 minutes. Since the average textbook page contains 800 words, their typical reading speed is 130 words per minute (wpm). This means that these students are included in the category of the slow reader.
To get more information about the recommended sources they need to read, I proceeded, “Don’t your lecturers also recommend any complementary sources, textbooks, journal articles, magazines, newspapers, and internet media?”
They admitted that they were also expected to read some supplementary sources, but they usually put them aside and focus on the compulsory texts only. “Completing reading the main texts alone have been demanding, how can we deal with the supplementary ones?” one of them accentuated.
So, more or less, how many percents do you think you complete reading both of the compulsory and supplementary assigned texts every week?
“I guess, 40%”, one of them replied.
“To be honest, only 30%”, another one said.
“Yes, between 30 to 40%, I think,” the last student said.
To see whether or not they do independent reading, I added, “Alright. What about reading materials outside of the syllabus? I mean, do you read something for fun?”
Almost simultaneously, the three students replied that every day they read some online news, WhatsApp, Instagram, Tweeter, and email messages. They can spend 1 to 2 hours reading and texting through social media every day. When I proceeded to ask whether they independently read novels or short stories, they replied they rarely read any text if they are not assigned by their lecturers.
To sum up, the conversation reveals that those three students still read very minimum (about 120 pages per week or 20 pages per day) and manage to complete only 30% to 40% of text recommended by their lecturers. In terms of reading speed, they are categorized as a slow reader. What is more, they never read for pleasure so that they do not read based on self-interest and initiative.
Indeed, these three students do not represent the whole Indonesian college students. However, relating their reading practices with research findings revealing the low rates of reading interest in Indonesia, such as the study of The CentralConnecticut State University (2016) placing Indonesia ranked 60th out of 61 countries in terms of public interest in reading and UNESCO (2012) asserting that only 1 in 1,000 Indonesians read books regularly or for leisure, it is clear that conducting massive concrete corrective actions to fight the reading crisis in Indonesian people, including in college students is very urgent.
Author: Parlindungan Pardede (firstname.lastname@example.org)