Readers are Leaders – Can You Learn to Become a Better Reader?
In a recent article, I talked about reading as a part of my wellbeing puzzle, something I know I can escape to if I need a little bit of quiet mindfulness, or to escape what sometimes seems like a constant media onslaught of bad news.
Reading is one of the five daily habits of the Wellbeing Hive – and chosen because of these qualities, and its capacity to expand our minds. It was former American President Barack Obama who affirmed that “Reading is important. If you know how to read, then the whole world opens up to you.” Some of the world’s most successful leaders across a variety of fields such as Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Sheryl Sandberg attribute a good part of their success to their reading habits.
If a world of knowledge, curiosity, mindfulness and well, entertainment are some of the gifts of reading, then developing or strengthening a reading habit can be a wonderful gift to give ourselves or a young person we are working with.
I’ve always been an avid reader, although my chosen reading material has changed a lot over the years, and it has always puzzled me why some of us love reading and others don’t. To try to understand this, I decided to break down the different elements of my reading practice, to see if there were any key elements that could be built by those not as yet identifying as a “reader”. Most skills can be built and developed over time, and reading is no different.
It occurred to me that when we talk about ourselves as readers, there are probably three areas that help us define what sort of reader we are – and these are our habits, our choices and our challenges. These can all be developed in different ways to better your reading practice.
Reading works best when it is a habit – and like my recent article on morning routines suggested, starting any new habit is just a matter of discipline. You could start by setting a minimum reading time per day (as low as you need to – even ten minutes is a beginning) or give yourself a set time to read each day.
One non-negotiable for me is to read each night before bed – and this is a great habit to adopt as it gets you away from screens (sorry I am a old school nothing-but-a-proper-book-will-do kind of a girl) and quietens your mind, making it ready for sleep. This is not the only time I read, as I often use it as a mindfulness tool, but it is a daily habit that is hard to break. In a good way!
I also quite like audiobooks as entertainment (and that they help me finish EVEN MORE BOOKS) and this can be a great habit to embrace as well – reading when your mind is free but your body is busy. This could be when exercising, when cleaning, walking the dog, driving, or eventually, on those bus trips back to school.
Choosing the right book can immediately switch a person on to the idea of reading. Choose books on topics that will interest the new reader, or choose something you know is legendarily popular, like the Harry Potter series or the Ryan Holiday books, depending on the person’s age and preferences. Or, set them loose in an online bookstore and tell them they can buy whatever they want as long as they promise to read it!
Our choices embody who we are as a reader at a moment in time. As a teenager I was exclusively a fantasy fiction reader, and the bigger the book or the longer the series, the better it was in my mind. I also re-read in those days a lot, something I find I have grown out of as I am a terrible collector of books. My to-read pile is enormous – approaching 100 I think.
Nowadays, I read a blend of quality fiction and non-fiction, and leave the lighter stuff for audio. I focus on stories I find need telling or will expand my world view – or non-fiction around habits I would like to develop. This leaves me with a lot of choices!
How we challenge ourselves as readers says a lot about our commitment to it, and what we believe is important. I challenge myself to finish a physical book every week – and my weekly DEAR session with the boys at Berwick Grammar motivates me to do this as I like to be able to share with them a new book I am reading every Friday. There has been plenty a Wednesday or Thursday evening of extra reading to help me achieve this!
Setting a reading challenge (like the one I set for myself) is a great way to get someone to become more motivated about reading. It could be about the number of books read in a space of time, or finishing a series or building towards a harder book. There could be rewards put in place or just the joy of meeting the challenge. Your challenge might also be to finish every book that you start (not one I have been able to force myself to do!)
I know that for many reading can be more of a chore than an adventure – but while we are in lockdown, why not sue this as an opportunity to expand your horizons? There are clearly so many wonderful benefits to reading… why not see if you can embrace them?
Have you got any more tips on becoming a reader? We’d love to hear from you!
Photo by Dids