Executive Director Ashley Thorne writes about college common readings in The Chronicle:
So which attitude [toward student reading] prevails in college today? ... resignation and low expectations.
One proof is in the books colleges assign as "common reading" to first-year students over the summer. For the last six years, the National Association of Scholars has tracked these assignments and noted patterns. Our annual report, "Beach Books: What Do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read Outside Class?," documents that colleges typically assign recent, easy books. Very few choose anything challenging. This year, 91 percent of the books were younger than the 18-year-old students themselves.
Most faculty and administrators who coordinate common-reading programs say their goal isn’t to nurture a love of great literature. As Cheryl Spector, of California State University-Northridge, put it, coordinators "never intended to be arbiters or guardians of high culture." Instead, they just want students to read something. Coordinators also want students to read the same thing so that they have some kind of intellectual experience in common and not just common knowledge of Snapchat and the Kardashians. Because core curricula have all but disappeared, many colleges and universities want to fill the gap that remains.
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