Required Reading in College

Posted by in Accommodations & Assistive Technology

Assigned reading is a dreaded task that many students with learning differences try to avoid at all cost.  While some students might enjoy a good fiction novel from time to time, I have met only a few students both with and without learning differences who say they truly enjoy reading assigned readings from professors. No matter how “easy” of a read teachers claim the 1,000 page textbook is, students may find themselves struggling to fulfill the demands of required reading for all their classes and retain the important information.

For a while I managed to avoid the assigned reading for a lot of my classes. I convinced myself that if I went to all my classes, took detailed notes, and maybe skimmed over summary sections in the textbooks before each test I would never have to fully read any of the chapters my professors assigned. For my freshman and sophomore year of college that strategy worked, and I came out with A’s and B’s in all of my classes. I was confident that I had found a way to get around reading in college. I felt like I had managed to cheat the system, and all the people that told me I would have to read to do well in college were wrong. Turns out I was the one who had been deceived.

Within the first two months of the spring semester of my junior year, I found myself with more assigned reading and tests then I ever had before.  At first I attempted my usual method of success, go to class, take notes, and maybe read a chapter or two. I thought I was fully prepared for the heavy course load of my major and minor classes and would come out unscathed. It turns out I was not prepared for the reading and writing intensive course load, or the poor grades that came with it.

I was baffled. I thought I understood the material when my professors went over it in class. I even made study guides and went over them several times before the tests. I could not comprehend how I did so poorly. Seeking answers, I went to my professors for advice on how to do better on my next round of tests, and the response was unanimous from all of them, “Do the readings.” Some even went as far as telling me I should go over each chapter at least three times. Hearing this from my professors did nothing to calm my nerves. I could potentially read a chapter, but going over it 3 times was too much. Having dyslexia makes it difficult to read over a chapter once, not to mention it usually takes me several hours to complete the task. How was I going to be able to do my assigned reading more than once?! After brainstorming ideas to help me with my situation, I came up with a few strategies that helped me and many other students I know tremendously in this situation:

Get Audio Books5880892760_959eaebd83_b

Even if you are unable to find an audio recording for a textbook, there are other options that could convert your text to audio. Many disability support services at universities have the option to convert your textbooks to pdf form. This allows you to use  programs like Read and Write Gold ( that will read documents on your computer when you highlight passages you want read.

Divide the Chapter into Sections

If reading several chapters in one sitting seems too daunting for you then divide the readings up.  If a professor plans to go over a chapter in class, divide the reading within a three day span before the class. Or if the professor plans to spend several days on the chapter, divide the reading up before and in-between the days they plan to go over the chapter. This is a good strategy for students who have a hard time understanding materials through reading. If something doesn’t make sense in the textbook, they might find clarification in the lectures or will be able to ask questions in class to clear things up for them and potentially their fellow classmates.

Make Outlines and Highlight

For students with learning differences it can be hard to take in every last detail of a reading. To help with this it might be beneficial to outline the chapters. This way you can decipher what is beneficial information and was isn’t, and to make it easier to go back and find the main points, it’s a good idea to highlight the sections you would like to include in your outlines. If you want to go an extra mile, you could show your outline to your professor to see if you are catching all the main points. For simple step-by-step direction on how to outline a chapter, check out:

Meeting the demands of reading and writing can be difficult for students with learning differences, and at some points the heavy amount of reading might make it seem impossible to get through college. But it is completely possible with the right help and accommodations! If you feel like you are struggling with any aspect of college, then you should seek out help immediately. There are many facilities and programs that will help students both with and without an LD be successful in college. It is the purpose of their very existence. So don’t get frustrated with the amount of reading college demands. It’s never too late to figure out a new study strategy or reach out to someone who will be able to help you with your heavy reading load.