Let’s read some books!

An article on how reading is important for leadership feels appropriate for the start of the semester, particularly with it’s mention in the second paragraph of the difference between literacy and the ability for deep reading.

A fun exercise is applying a bit of that “deep reading” to this article. You’ll probably notice that there’s lots of fine anecdotal accounts of great leaders also being great readers. When the evidence starts coming out, things get shakier. The supporting link for the claim that reading offers the best stress-reduction is to a newspaper article about the study that doesn’t make clear that they tested books versus reading web content and also reveals that the study was part of a chocolate marketing campaign. The supporting references for the links between reading and increased verbal skills are more solid but also do not seems to be specifically about the advantages of reading books. In fact, one of the cited papers breaks down the rate of rare words in various types of text and finds that books rank fourth below scientific articles, newspapers, and popular magazines. While this is all compared in that article to spoken language to explain why simply watching television or engaging in conversation doesn’t have the same effects, there is no breakdown of where web-based reading falls.

But in the end I also agree with the point of the article. I’m prepared to believe there are different effects from web versus book reading, probably based on issues of attention/distraction and the goals of the text, and recognizing that one would have to actually define what they mean by “web reading”. And, I do hope all my students coming back next week are prepared to do a lot of book reading!

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