Developing a Reading Culture

1st May, 2023 4 min read

We all know that reading is good for us. There are studies on how it provides focus, improves memory, and increases our communication skills. But do we, in L&D, encourage a reading culture in our organisations? And if we don’t, should we?

I was always the one caught with the torch under the bedcover reading late into the night when I was little. I settled on an English Literature degree – balancing it with a dose of the classic American novel. My local book club hit its twenty-year anniversary last year – many many novels and maybe one or two glasses of wine consumed as we meet each month to delve into the literary classics, the Booker winners, novellas, short stories, I could go on….

So, when it comes to reading in the workplace I already sit clearly in the ‘I love a book’ camp. But I question whether we encourage workplace learning through reading? I’ve not seen many offices that have dedicated library space. I’ve worked in a few that have set up book clubs. A few that have shared the latest management tomes that promise to make you ‘a great leader’. And I’ve been handed project management and personal effectiveness books to read “outside office hours”. The ‘quiet spaces’ in the last office I worked in leant themselves to a reading haven, but I don’t ever recall seeing anyone sitting reading a book in them. Why was this? I saw people reading newspapers, but not a hardback or paperback that could be classed as development material.

The WATCH & GO® videos and Sound Advice podcasts in our digital resource library all come with a 4-minute learning guide. We’ve promoted the guides as ‘handy tip sheets’, ‘an additional learning resource’ and ‘supporting evidence’. Often thinking of them as an adjunct to the ‘more important’ video view or podcast listen. But this month I’m stopping to think and to question their secondary position and to reflect that these 4-minute guides are actually real gems. They offer a snapshot, simplify key learning points, and provoke more thoughts. They can’t and won’t replace our audio and visual material, but they do deserve to a have spotlight shined on them from time to time.

Reading improves your communication skills, simply by the fact that you are inhaling more words. And surely taking time out, away from your desk, will give you a different perspective on things? I talked to a friend the other week who was due to have her yearly appraisal, she was struggling with her time management. Before she met with her manager, she bought herself a book on general personal effectiveness. She liked some of it, but not all of it. She gained some really good ideas on how to manage her workload, how to timebox her tasks and track them, and how to give priority to the things that really needed it. The result: She had solved the problem before she met her manager. And of course, her manager was suitably impressed with her attitude and commented on this in her appraisal. What a self-starter, and what an advocate for the power of learning through reading.

My own dalliances into non-fiction or reading for development always provide some useful take-aways. And much like the friend I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are some chapters that are more useful than others. Even if we only glean one or two pieces of advice, that’s better than nothing. As parents, we are advised to support our children with daily reading habits, so why aren’t we as managers and co-workers, supporting our teams with daily reading habits? We can expand their horizons, get them thinking from different perspectives, get them to question their thought processes. They’ll definitely learn something, and even if they don’t think they’ve learnt anything new, the power of sharing the conversation and opening up their thinking will have had an impact. After writing this blog, I’m going to suggest some ‘dedicated reading time’ for the Scott Bradbury team. We’ve got a couple of reluctant readers, and some prolific readers in the team – I wonder who’ll get the most out of the challenge? And, I wonder after reading this blog whether anyone has some recently read favourites that they want to share? Responses to please!