Study shows students have a hard time reading

Students in an English class listen to Instructor Alaina Reid’s lecture. The English Department recently conducted a study showing over 33 percent of students in First Year Composition II cannot read on the college level.

News Editor Kaitlyn Davis

As students further their education, professors expect their reading abilities to progress as well, but a large percentage of UNA students cannot read on the college level.

A recent study by the English Department showed over 33 percent of First-Year Composition II students could not read on the college level, said English Department Chair Cynthia Burkhead in an email.

The English Department conducted the study by administering the Nelson-Denny Reading Test to all students in First-Year Composition II April 2016, Burkhead said.

“A two-part test, the Nelson-Denny measures vocabulary development, comprehension and reading rate,” according to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website.

This percentage is consistent with the national average, but it is still alarming, Burkhead said.

“The English Department has always been concerned with making sure our students can process the complex texts they will be given in their general education courses and in their major courses,” Burkhead said. “In the future, UNA will be making some changes in the general education core that will decrease the number of literature courses students will be required to take, and the English Department believes those courses provide needed practice in critical reading.”

The results of the study will allow the English Department to reduce the percentage of students who cannot read on the college level by developing current and future courses, Burkhead said.

Options are scarce at UNA to help students struggling to read on the proper level, Burkhead said.

Professors are unable to give students who are having a hard time reading the proper attention they need, she said.

“While there is no separate course for reading instruction at UNA, the only option for the faculty in the English Department is to work closely in composition and literature courses with those students who struggle with college texts,” she said.

Faculty do not have much time to work with students on reading during composition and literature classes because those classes concentrate on writing and the study of literature, Burkhead said.

Students must take a developmental English course if their score is below a 16 on the ACT English subtest. Since enrollment is not based on the reading subtest, it is hard to determine what their reading level is, Burkhead said.

“Because it is not a reading test, those students may and often are very bright students with high scores in math and science,” she said. “Since it is difficult to determine real reading level with this score, we decided to use the Nelson-Denny Test to attempt as accurately as possible (to see) at what level our students were reading.”

If students are struggling to read on the college level, they can use the University Success Center for help, said Director of the University Success Center Matthew Little.

Students can utilize the Center for Writing Excellence or a reading workshop to brush up their reading skills, Little said.

Students can schedule an appointment at the success center by visiting .

Burkhead said she worries about students who cannot read on the college level because they will struggle in any career field they choose.

Reading on the proper level is important in any major, including senior Sarah Myrick’s major Biology, she said.

“Without (reading) you can’t understand all of the facts,” Myrick said. “You can’t understand all of the figures. You can’t understand graphs, you can’t replicate an experiment. Without reading, you’re lost.”

However, freshman Abdullah Almunayes said he does not think so.

“I’m changing (my major) to graphic design, and graphic design doesn’t really deal with text,” Almunayes said. “In graphic design, reading is not really important. You just get the concept and then translate it into a design. So, you don’t have to read to know how to design.”

But the English Department is passionate about helping those students succeed, she said.

“UNA has a history of striving to be better, and the English Department wants better than average for our students,” she said.