Leadership Perspectives

Four reasons you should read

Marie Peeler

Read Across America day is next week on March 2.  The observance, spearheaded by the National Education Association, is designed to promote reading among children and young adults.  But we wonder – Why should kids have all the fun?

The evidence is clear.  Children who are given early access to books, are read to, and are encouraged to read on their own develop better oral language skills and print knowledge, as well as a love of books and reading.  I loved to read as a child and any birthday money that I didn’t put into my savings account, I usually spent on books.

As I got older, I didn’t lose my love of books but, as the pressures of a time constrained life mounted, I lost my willingness to devote much time to reading.  I rediscovered my love of reading a few years ago when I went back to school and I figured out how to carve time out of each day to read.

I recently wrote about reading, in another blog post and a published article, as one way for leaders to become smarter. But given the upcoming Read Across America day, I’d like to elaborate on the point that Reading is beneficial to leaders and explain why:

Vocabulary – Researchers and writers invariably point to evidence that reading helps to develop a robust vocabulary in both children and adults.  Research shows that people learn vocabulary more through language exposure than through direct teaching. Written narratives are more enriching than the spoken words, because books, magazines, and journals use more diverse words than adults typically use when they speak, even professionally.  If you are currently using ‘word of the day’ programs to beef up your vocabulary, you may want to just pick up a good book instead.

Emotional Intelligence – A New York Times report noted that reading fiction can increase our emotional intelligence.  Creating a simulation- like environment, stories plunge us into a different way of seeing the world by giving us a different lens through which to view it.  Through this different lens, we see how others might feel and we develop empathy for their circumstances, motives, and outlook, and thus build emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is more important to the success of leaders than even the highly revered IQ.

Retention of cognitive abilities:  You’ve heard the expression “Use it or lose it.”  The intellectual activity required for reading and comprehension helps preserve our cognitive abilities.  Reading has even been linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  (the same way that watching prime time television has been linked to a higher risk.)

Reduced stress and increased concentration: Reading takes a tremendous amount of focus.  It requires clearing your mind of other matters in order to read and retain effectively.  This can have a profound impact on your stress level.  Even six minutes of reading has been shown to reduce your heart rate and muscle tension in a way that is unparalleled by other activities, such as listening to music or drinking a cup of tea or coffee.  For an extra dose of relaxation, read one of Peeler Associates’ favorite books, 8 Minute Meditation by Victor Davich.

Now that I have you in the mood to read, next time I’ll tell you about a book that our clients are raving about.