Based on research into the benefits of reading for pleasure and the operation in the US of pre-arrival shared reading schemes for those about to embark on a university education, in the context of wider research on how to engage new students in their institution, an exploration was made of the likely response to such a shared reading scheme in a London university. A representative sample of first-year undergraduates was asked about how they spent their leisure time, their attitudes towards and involvement in reading for pleasure, and their reactions to such a potential scheme. The findings were that students were reading for pleasure more than had been anticipated, that they were generally keen to read more, and that a shared reading scheme would be welcomed by the majority of students. The outcomes are discussed, along with the decisions made as a result, and recommendations are made for future research.
This paper continues the exploration of Kingston University’s pre-arrival shared reading scheme, the Kingston University Big Read (KUBR), this time considering action research into how best to choose a common book. After a review of methods used to choose books both specifically in American universities and generally within large shared reading groups, the method used for the KUBR is described. A key objective of the KUBR is to promote inclusion, so the longlist of titles considered was produced by inviting the entire community to submit suggestions. Since the list was extensive, time to make a choice was short, and there was a strong desire for the methodology to be as objective as possible, it was decided to identify the key criteria relevant to choosing a suitable book and then use a simple algorithm—essentially a weighted scoring system—to score each book using readily available data in order to make a shortlist of six books. These were then read by a panel of students and administrative and academic staff. The book finally chosen was Matt Haig’s The Humans. This paper details each step of the method and finishes with an appraisal and lessons learnt for next time.