“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” Mark Twain
As a kid, whenever my mother caught me sitting around reading, she’d give me a chore and tell me to “do something.” I’d do it, and get right back to my book. To me reading was, and is, “doing something.” And it’s doing something infinitely valuable: learning. If people, especially visual learners, aren’t reading, they’re missing out.
Reading for Learning
Learning is receiving information in, assimilating it, and applying it. People typically do this visually, aurally, and/or kinesthetically. About 65% of the population identifies as “visual learners.” One of the ways that they learn best is by reading, by seeing and decoding the words on a page (or screen).
In a Forbes piece, Nick Morgan posits that “we are all visual learners. By far the most important part of our brains taking in new stimuli is visual.” He has a point. Ninety percent of the information that comes to the brain is visual, and the human brain processes it faster than other input.
The best learning experiences, though, occur when people have the opportunity to do all three. They read something, hear it, and then “do something,” as my mother would’ve said, with that newly acquired knowledge. Too many people are losing out on those invaluable experiences:
- The number of non-readers (as distinct from those who are illiterate) was 8% in 1978. Today: 23%. (3)
- 23% of full-time employees say they never do any reading related to work.
After school, whether secondary or post-secondary, most people just stop reading. About half of Americans read for pleasure but, as mentioned, less than a quarter read for business. Learning, then, becomes experiential. “I’m so busy with work, I have to learn by doing.”
The problem with this is that you can’t “do” everything; there’s simply no time, and little tolerance in the business world for folks who are just figuring it out as they go along. The learning curve becomes steeper if you don’t have a solid base of knowledge first. Books or other reading material can save countless missteps.
The Power of Reading
Reading for pleasure confers a host of benefits, including stress relief and increased mental stimulation, which may help stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Reading to learn, too, is incredibly powerful. Not only can people access specific information that will help them with their work, they improve their vocabulary and memory, they strengthen their cognitive reasoning and analytical skills and they boost their focus.
If people aren’t reading, how are they going to accomplish all of that? How are they going to learn anything that lies outside the confines of their experience? They won’t.
Don’t Miss Out
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether people identify as visual learners, or not. Reading is too powerful a tool to be discarded by anyone. With alternative technology and media, there’s no reason, no excuse, not to read – in some form or another.
For individuals who struggle to learn from books because they are auditory or kinesthetic folks, or for visual people don’t think they have the time, here are a few ways to “read”:
- Audio books. Learn best by listening? Listen to a book. Better yet, listen and read along at the same time to engage different parts of the brain (Whispersync).
- Quotes. If people don’t have the time to read Stephen Covey’s books or Jack Welch’s advice, they can read quotes. These snippets, at least, encourage them to think, connect some dots, and maybe even take some action.
- Book summaries. Sites like Blinkist curate and condense books so users can get through a work in just 15 minutes, gleaning critical insights. BookSummaries.org offers a curated list of sites that offer business book summaries.
Ultimately, business reading is reading for learning. Pleasure reading is great. Do it, and enjoy the many benefits. But in today’s world, if people aren’t learners, they’re falling behind. Reading is a powerful way to access information, advice, thoughts, theories and strategies – for all types of learners.