Common Reading Experience

Why a Common Reading?

The concept of a Common Reading Experience (CRE) has been embraced at colleges and universities across the United States in recent years. The purpose of the CRE has been described as providing

(L. Patterson, 2002, New Ideas in First-Year Reading Programs Around the Country, First-Year Experience Newsletter, 14(3), p. 8).

Readings typically explore universal themes of identity, gender, race, ethnicity, and civic responsibility that contribute to students’ academic and social development and can be addressed from multiple points of view. The CRE serves to initiate and integrate the academic experience broadly across campus, while strengthening relationships within the NIU community and beyond.

(J.L. Laufgraben, 2006, Common Reading Programs: Going beyond the book, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition). 

Common reading programs promote student success, by modeling academic behaviors, setting expectations for student success, fostering involvement, and promoting meaningful learning.

Common Reading Experience Goals & Objectives


  • Encourage students to read beyond textbooks,
  • Appeal to students across identities,
  • Introduce students to critical thinking,
  • Set academic expectations,
  • Encourage self-reflection and self-evaluation,
  • Create a sense of community and civic engagement,
  • Increase students’ frame of reference,
  • Engage students in discussions revolving around book ideas and concepts with faculty, staff, and peers 


  • Integrate knowledge of global interconnections and interdependencies
  • Exhibit intercultural competencies with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives
  • Analyze issues that interconnect human life and the natural world
  • Demonstrate critical, creative, and independent thought
  • Communicate clearly and effectively
  • Collaborate with others to achieve specific goals
  • Use and combine appropriate quantitative and qualitative reasoning skills to address questions and solve problems
  • Synthesize knowledge and skills relevant to one’s major or particular fields of study and apply them creatively to develop innovative outcomes