Avenues for Chronicling and Researching the History of College Reading and Study Skills Instruction

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Journal of Reading

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The field of college reading and study skills instruction is approaching the centennial of the first collegiate reading improvement experiment in the U.S. (Abell, 1894) and 75 years of post- secondary reading improvement services (Leedy, 1958; Lowe, 1970). Despite its surely rich and valued history, there are only limited sources which chronicle or analyze historically the development and growth of the field. Yet any meaningful innovation for the future will only be as strong as the originator's critical understanding of the historical factors affecting our predecessors' successes and failures.

The commonly quoted historical treatises on the pedagogy of reading (Huey, 1968; Mathews, 1966; Robin- son, 1977; Smith, 1965; Venezky, 1984), while mentioning some classic research studies with college students (e.g., Buswell, 1939; Robinson, 1933), direct scant attention to the germination and maturation of the college reading and study skills movement. These treatises fall into three categories: (1) extensive chronicles which integrate a multitude of primary and secondary historical sources; (2) summaries or timelines which highlight major events or trends in the field; and (3) monographs and texts which have gained historical importance over the years. Within each category, however, the literature is sparse and this dearth of information may explain why specialists in college reading and study skills instruction tend to overlook the history of the field when designing pro- grams, developing curriculum, writing texts, and undertaking empirical re- search.

Given this premise of paucity, this article will first note the major historical works or chronicles and then propose 10 directions for further historical research.


Journal of Reading, Vol. 29, No. 4 (January, 1986): 334-341. Stable URL.

William A. Henk was affiliated with Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg at time of publication.