This paper reports and reflects on the processes and outcomes of a shared reading programme targeted at new students embarking on a university qualification at Kingston University. It isolates the various stages involved, from selecting a book for sharing, to the despatch of a bespoke edition to new students and wider distribution within the institution. It then explores and assesses the effects the scheme had on the community, by role and department, through both informal measures of impact and post-delivery surveying of those involved. Recommendations are offered for further development of the project.
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.
Seeking to improve student enrolment, engagement, and retention, Kingston University began a pre-arrival shared reading scheme in 2014–2015, sending a free book to every student about to start at the university and making copies available to staff in all roles and departments across the institution. A number of associated events were organized and outcomes monitored through a variety of project-specific and institutional metrics. Continuing with the scheme in 2015–2016, Kingston University and Edinburgh Napier University joined together as research partners. Edinburgh Napier, having participated in the process of choosing a book for all to read, made the same single title available to their students and staff. In this paper the processes and outcomes of the collaboration are reported, including the differences in project implementation in the two institutions and what they learned from each other. Recommendations are made for how universities can work together on projects of mutual desirability, pointing out particular associated sensitivities, in this case when managing a long-distance collaboration, and what can be learned for the future.
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.