Podcast S5, Ep. 7 – On Reading Well with Dr. Mark Talbot (Wheaton College) (TGH Speaker Series)

J.R. Waller, MBA

Episode Description

0:50 – Introductions
2:00 – Reading and literacy statistics
5:36 – Why do Christians need to read well?
10:29 – Benefits of reading
12:01 – How to read well in an age of distraction
16:50 – Current cultural and celebrity attitudes toward books
21:58 – Marcel Proust, John Milton and Maryanne Wolf on reading
35:50 – How to approach and read God’s Word
49:22 – Best practices for teaching reading in the classroom and in the church
60:55 – Some favorite books and recommendations
1:12:42 – Concluding remarks and next episode preview

In this podcast episode we’re joined once again by Dr. Mark Talbot, associate professor of philosophy at Wheaton College, and host of the When the Stars Disappear podcast. He is also the author of the Suffering and the Christian Life series published by Crossway, including When the Stars Disappear and Give Me Understanding That I May Live.

Mark spoke once before on the podcast about suffering, but in this episode we turn our attention to the important and vital topic of reading.“The numbers don’t lie, the poor state of reading and literacy in America today is alarming, especially among Christians.”

In America today, 54% of adults read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level (Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy) and in Central Florida 1 in 4 read at or below a 5th grade level (The Adult Literacy League).

Additionally, 14% of Americans in 2021 read their Bible daily while only 10% did so in 2022 (American Bible Society, The State of the Bible USA 2022 Survey). Lastly, Ligonier Ministries’ bi-annual State of Theology Survey shows that 53% of U.S. adults believe that the Bible is not literally true, the first time there has been a majority who believe that in the survey, and up from 41% in 2014.

The numbers don’t lie, the poor state of reading and literacy in America today is alarming, especially among Christians.

Many factors are contributing to America’s literacy woes, including a plethora of distractions, celebrities discouraging reading, people’s inclination to listen to audio-books instead of reflecting on written words, and a reliance on transactional (blogs, Tweets, short form content) instead of transformative (physical books, long form content) reading.“When we take the time to allow books to work on us, they produce a new kind of life in us.”

Dr. Talbot discusses all of this and more in the episode. He also considers ways of reading well in an age of distraction including helpful tools and tips for training our minds to read and comprehend better.

As Mark points out, understanding takes time and effort. It requires that we get outside ourselves to grow. However, when we take the time to allow books to work on us, they produce a new kind of life in us (Matt. 4:4).

We also discuss the benefits of reading, how to both approach and read the Bible well, and we even look at thoughts from great minds past like Marcel Proust and John Milton to see what they can teach us about reading.

Lastly, we consider methods for teaching reading in church and classroom settings, including an illuminating talk about how to study the Bible and some of our favorite book recommendations.

Mark’s insights provide a great synthesis on the current state of reading and what we can all do to become great thinkers.

We’re looking forward to having Dr. Talbot back on the podcast soon for another episode where we’ll talk more about literacy.

Books recommended in this episode:

Other Resources:

Intro and outro music provided by John Fairfull.

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