Outside of conducting original research, the two main methods of learning are through instruction or through reading. Reading is often thought of as a passive activity, but that attitude can short-change the reader and does not allow one to fully extract the value of a text. Reading can be a great conversation starter and can be a fun mindless passive activity, but it can also strengthen one’s self-knowledge and worldly knowledge if one understands the literary basics. This is equally true whether it be a book about science, philosophy, literary fiction, or a memoir.
One way the R4R project advocates active reading is through guided discussions, such as with the use of a book club model, with some tips above and sample discussion sheets on the "For Librarians" page.
For those who prefer to read alone, or do not have the time or access to these groups, we also provide some guidelines for active reading on an individual level.
Finally, some resources are provided, such as books and other web resources on the topic.
Just as in a book club or seminar, the interests of the participants will shape the discussion. We offer sample questions to get the ball rolling. Talking about characters may be a good place to start:
Why do these characters (including the narrator) act and think the way they do?
How do they interact and affect one another?
How might we see addiction playing out in this story?
From here, a discussion can branch out into form:
Why is the story told in this particular way?
How does the text describe people and things, and why?
Writing, whether directly about the books read together or simply inspired by them, can be a valuable medium for participants to do this work of processing – an optional way to prepare for the group analysis or continue it.
For informative/expository texts (e.g., science, history, philosophy):
According to philosopher and educator Mortimer Adler in his seminal work How to read a book, one must understand a piece of instructional writing in three separate ways before one can "master" that work.
#1: Structural understanding
#2: Interpretive understanding
#3: Critical understanding