by Deanna Kreisel [Dr. Waffle Blog]
About a third of the way through a first-year humanities honors course, one of my more engaged and talkative students pulled me aside after class for a private chat. She waited, clearly anxious, while the rest of her classmates filed out and then turned to me with her eyes already filling up with tears.
“I can’t read,” she said, her voice shaking.
I waited for her to elaborate, but nothing else was coming out. “Do you mean you’re having trouble finding time to do the assigned reading?” I ventured.
“No. I mean, yes, I am, but that’s not what I mean. I’m trying to read Pride and Prejudice, I really am, but I don’t understand it.”
“Yes, well, as I’ve explained the language is antiquated and it takes some time to—”
“No, no!” she cried impatiently. “I know that. I mean I don’t know how to read a novel, a whole book. I can’t concentrate on it; my mind wanders. And then I can’t remember what happened, and I feel lost. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I just….can’t read,” she trailed off.
I clucked sympathetically as I tried to figure out what on earth to say.
“I’ve called my mom a bunch of times and cried on the phone to her. I am just so embarrassed. She said I should talk to you. Also, she suggested I listen to the audiobook. But I mean, is that cheating?”
I seized on the idea like a lifeline. “No, that would be fine,” I reassured her. “I suggest that you do both, though—listen to the audiobook as you’re following along with the text, so that you can eventually get better at comprehension.”
She was grateful; I gave her some tips on dealing with distractions and suggested she work with a tutor; she struggled through Jane Austen; tragedy and disaster were both averted. She got a little better at reading the assigned texts but continued to worry that it didn’t come naturally or easily to her.
This was an honors student. Read more »