My experience teaching college taught me that most college students are poorly equipped to read on their own (most of them don’t read at all, unless you hold a gun to their heads, as I’ve pointed out before), by which I mean that they don’t know how to make sense of what scholars call “primary texts” (works as they are actually written, rather than works as they are digested and described by others — such as textbooks). To help my students learn to read primary texts from any of a number of fields (e.g., I regularly taught philosophical and theological works in my Humanities classes), I developed a 4-step method for understanding, analyzing, and evaluating works of all sorts. From time to time, a student would tell me, in a tone of amazement, that this method had helped them read books and articles for their other classes. (They were amazed the method worked, I was amazed that they’d actually tried it and noticed that it worked.)
Now over on the Catholic Reading Project web site, I’m going to be reading and discussing (hopefully in the company of others — how about you?) a series of magisterial documents of the Catholic Church, and it just so happens that I am no expert on the subject, and I imagine that most of those who drop in on the project or even follow along regularly are going to be no more expert than I. For this reason, I’ve posted my 4-step method over there, in hopes that it will encourage people who might otherwise be intimidated by the idea of reading documents that were not written for general lay readers. If you enjoy reading serious works, but wonder if you’re really getting out of them what you should, you should click the link above and take a look at the method. Then let me know what you think!