What Book(s) Are You Currently Reading?

During my years as a leader in education, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants. There is one question that I ask prospective teachers that [they] most stumble over and now, I think, I know why. The question I ask usually occurs in the middle of the interview and it goes something like this: “What book can I find on your table that you are currently reading?” Blank stares, uncomfortable shifting in the chair, silence, and usually the response is one of an excuse as to why they are not currently reading. I find it alarming that our future teachers of future leaders are not engaged consistently in the reading of great, living books.

That one question gives me an insight into the world of the prospective teacher. When I meet a candidate who is a reader, I immediately know they are lifelong learners! It allows me a glimpse in how they use their time, what their interests are, their learning style, and so much more. Reading isn’t the only thing that tells me one is a lifelong learner, but it is a big indicator.

After reading the masterpiece of Thomas Jefferson by Jon Meacham entitled The Art of Power, it became clear that education, reading, and sustaining a republic were synonymous to the Founding Fathers. Jefferson once said about the training of our minds (reading), “every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”

What is happening to our minds? They are being rewired by our choices. Checkout the latest research on what we do instead of reading:

  • Every day, adults spend 50 minutes on Facebook
  • Every day, adults spend 40 minutes watching YouTube videos
  • Every day, we spend five hours and four minutes watching T.V.
  • Every day, the average person will open Instagram 54 times
  • Every day, the average teen will end up being on some social platform for nine hours
  • Every week, the average family watches three full-length movies

I could go on but I am getting angrier with every bullet point I type! The reason? These statistics reflect my own drifting away from what is true, good, and beautiful about sustained reading. As much as I love to read, I succumb at times to the boost of dopamine triggered by the little noise or vibration when I get a message or text, or scrolling through my iPhone before I go to bed, or checking social media the first thing in the morning before even getting out of bed! Most of us have become addicted to social media and electronic communication, and that addiction has affected relationships, productivity, and our reading.

A few things that I am working on in this area that you might find helpful:

  1. Set up a time that you turn off your phone/computer each night (at least 60 minutes before you go to bed).
  2. Your brain is the most creative after a restful night of sleep. Don’t waste it on spending time on email or your social media sites. Read, write, or exercise during those first few hours.
  3. Take a class on reading faster and recalling better. I am currently doing that through Kwik Learning (kwiklearning.com). When was the last time you took a class on reading? If you are like me, it was in 3rd grade!
  4. Challenge those close around you to turn off the television and read a variety of books. Make it a friendly competition, a book club or discussion, or read together as a couple each day instead of sitting in front of the boob tube (is that even appropriate to type?)
  5. Read and give away! I have made it my habit this past year to give a book from my library to people I meet with for breakfast. Recently a group of colleagues got together and each brought a book to exchange. We placed the books in the center of the table, discussed them, and each took the one that interested them. Loads of fun!

Let us return to a love of books and be like Thomas Jefferson, who candidly wrote to John Adams in his later years, “I cannot live without books; but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object.”

David Towne

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