Intercom Online......September 10, 1998

Getting smarter

Emily Grimmke, a senior majoring in human development and family studies, takes a moment to read the newspaper by the columns of Old Main. Thanks to the Residence Hall Newspaper Readership program, students at various University locations have national and local newspapers delivered to their doorsteps.
Photo: Greg Grieco

Student learning improves
by reading newspapers

By Vicki Fong
Public Information

The results are in -- reading newspapers regularly does make a valuable contribution to Penn State students and their education.

The University is starting the second year of its innovative Residence Hall Newspaper Readership program, which provides national and community newspapers to students living in residence halls at nine campuses in hopes of encouraging lifelong reading habits and informed citizenship.

Nearly half of students participating in a Penn State Pulse survey said that reading a newspaper added to their Penn State education. Approximately 65 percent reported their instructors referred to news articles as part of class discussions or presentations; and 20 percent had instructors who required the students to read a newspaper regularly.

"We believe this continues to be a successful initiative on behalf of our students," said William W. Asbury, vice president for student affairs. "In the survey, students agree that regular newspaper readership produces a broad range of information to understand the world and community they live in, and to help develop the skills to be educated citizens. As more students and faculty become more aware of the program, we anticipate they will incorporate newspapers into their teaching and learning activities."

Approximately 1.6 million copies of The Daily Collegian, The New York Times, USA Today, the Centre Daily Times and six other Pennsylvania newspapers circulated during 1997-98 to thousands of students at University Park's 44 residence halls and at eight other campuses: Penn State Altoona, Penn State Beaver, Penn State Berks, Penn State Erie, Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Hazleton, Penn State McKeesport and Penn State Mont Alto.

During 1997-98 , the program collected 176 tons of newsprint, most of which was shipped to PennMulch for recycling into mulch. PennMulch and three participating newspapers -- The New York Times, USA Today and the Centre Daily Times -- are making contributions to student scholarship funds.

Pasty Morton, director of Education Alliances of The New York Times Corp., said the success of the Penn State program has led to discussions with a half-dozen other universities about launching similar programs. Michigan State University will be starting such an effort with The New York Times this semester. In addition, The New York Times brought editors and reporters to the Penn State campus last year for public and classroom lectures, and will be sponsoring faculty seminars on integrating the newspaper into classroom applications this year.

The program has become an important "laboratory for developing best practices for the use of newspapers in a college setting," said Morton.

Lou Heldman, president and publisher of the Centre Daily Times newspaper, said, "Penn State has created a national model for encouraging college students to broaden their perspectives through newspaper reading. We think one positive result in the State College area will be that better-informed students will become better citizens in the larger community beyond campus."

The Penn State Pulse Survey also reported that 73 percent of student participants believed that the availability of the newspapers in the residence halls contributed to reading the newspaper regularly. Half of the students surveyed indicated that newspaper readership improved their knowledge about national and local issues, their ability to discuss current issues and to participate in class discussions.

A fourth of the students linked newspaper readership to learning how to evaluate the use of language and statistics; connecting real life and class concepts; and developing strategies to pursue their own goals.

In the survey, a second-semester student participant said, "The newspapers are a great source of information and necessary to help students advance in the learning process. I read The New York Times every day and it helped my reading and critical thinking skills as much as a political science course."

Asbury said, "The Penn State program contradicts perceptions that young people do not read newspapers and obtain their news electronically. We are finding that college students readily enjoy and use newspapers to expand their understanding and ideas about the world and the local community."

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