I was not a good reader as a child – unless of course the book had pictures. I was quite good at pictures. When I did read, it felt like climbing Everest. Every book had a ‘death zone’ about two thirds of the way through. I think I managed to finish my schooling without finishing a book – it was almost a point of pride. But that all changed when I became a teacher and heard that, ‘leaders are readers’. Suddenly, I knew I had to read – after all, how can we share ideas with others, if we fail to receive them for ourselves? However, I didn’t know how to read as a lifestyle. I had to learn again – as an adult.
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I have become increasingly aware that reading has become something of a lost art for many people. Recently, I spoke to our staff about this and received a massive response – hence this short blog. I want to address the subject by asking three questions: What should we read; why should we read; and how should we read?
What should we read?
The German theologian, Karl Barth, was reputed to prepare his sermons with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. It represents a healthy balance between the eternal and immutable on the one hand, and the daily and changeable on the other. All reading, when approached correctly, could be viewed as a therapeutic and even spiritual experience (the Pharaoh Rameses II called his library a ‘clinic for the soul’) but the Bible and the newspaper (and everything in-between) are appropriate goalposts for the broad reading habit I would recommend.
Why should we read?
The reasons we read vary from person to person, however, there are three I want to highlight. Firstly, we read the Bible to get to know God. Jesus challenged His audience to find Him in the Scriptures. If we know the Author, it changes the way we engage with the text. This should be our daily quest. Secondly, we read books to get to know ourselves. Books have the ability to read the reader. We read stories and find them to be our own. One of the reasons we don’t read is because we are fearful of being discovered. Thirdly, we read, especially biographies, to get to know people. A book invites us into the world of another. I tend to think it would be a little self-centred of us not to accept the invitation.
How should we read?
But how do we develop a reading habit? Here are seven thoughts that have helped me:
- Develop a routine – Find a place where you can say, “I can read here”.
- Read for enjoyment – Find a book about which you can say, “I want to read this”.
- Remove the obstacles – Find a method (E.g. Audio) so you can say, “I can read this”.
- Choose a time – Find a time when you can say, “I will read now”.
- Make an investment – Find a disciple so you have to say, “I must read this”.
- Change your confession – Find a friend to whom you can say, “I have read this”.
- Set some goals – Find a target so you can say, “I have read these”
As a child I used to say, “I am not a reader”. It was a poor excuse then and an even worse one now. As a leader I have found the development of a daily reading habit has proved to be essential both for personal wellbeing and leadership fruit.