For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.2 Timothy 4:3-4
In the 20thcentury, schools taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Some of you might remember that motto. School curriculums have strayed from those goals in the recent decades.
I found young lawyers, fresh out of law school, to be increasingly poor writers over my career. They lacked basic writing skills. Even I have to think carefully when I write. My wife is my critic to this day when I misuse a pronoun.
The fact that millennials of today will be the next generation of leaders might be a scary thought to some. This is a generation addicted to the digital world. Turning a page in a book is not as convenient as reading something digitally on your phone or iPad.
Instead of reading newspaper (many of which are disappearing), they rely on things like The Daily Skimm or other online sources for news and current events. Or worse. Studies show they often rely on their emotions or even peers on social media for opinions.
Some recent research on reading is more promising than I thought. Most millennials I know are quick to admit that they don’t read. Yet, there is the success of apps like Hooked, which has been downloaded over 2 million times.
Hooked is aimed at the 13-24 age group. It provides stories in the format of an SMS (or text) conversation. They are sometimes spell binding. Still, it is hardly a replacement for other literature.
The book publishing industry has been in transition to adjust to the trends of the last two decades. Chain bookstores like Barnes and Nobles are closing stores across the country. Digital book platforms like Kindle are commonplace apps on people’s phones and computers.
Digital books (or e-books) sales have peaked and actually slowed down with a sharp drop in 2014 which has since plateaued. In the first half of 2016, adult e-book sales fell 18.1%. Men are less likely to read fiction than women in the young adult age group, reading an average of 4 books a year to the six books read by women.
At the same time, the local independent book stores are thriving. Between 2010 and 2015, mom-and-pop bookstores have increased 21%. Owners of these stores have found that their customers desire a social experience, so they become community centers, not just book stores.
The former Post Office in Pinehurst has been converted to The Roast Office. It sells used books sold by the Givens Library and has an upscale coffee shop. It is the setting for a lot of social interaction and a place to hang out, not just read books.
Why is reading important? Both Gen Y and Gen Z see leadership as something important to their future, according to research. They see leadership as a means “to make a difference and to improve the community in which they live” according Tim Elmore.
It was Margaret Fuller who said: “Today a reader; tomorrow a leader.” She was the first woman journalist in the 19thcentury. You might think that quote is now outdated, archaic and not important today. You might be wrong.
Recently, Indra Nooyi the CEO of Pepsi gave some parting words as she stepped down from her position. She said: “Be lifelong students.” In a constantly changing world, she urged leaders of tomorrow to “constantly educate yourself.”
I find the trends of the digital world to worrisome. As Tom Kerstner notes in his book Disconnected, the digitally connected next generation “may be losing the ability to analyze things with depth and nuance.” Not good.
Add to that the Google Effect (also called digital amnesia) where the brain has rewired itself so that information or knowledge retrieved digitally bypasses the brain’s memory bank. In short, digital info doesn’t stick in the brain.
Vocabulary in the middle schools has dropped from 25,000 words to just 10,000 words in the past decade. Most freshman entering college have only listened to Audiobooks or watched the movie but have never read the book according to The Mindset List of incoming college freshman.
The quality of the books is important too. As author Gene Edward Veith said: “The answer to bad books is good books.”
A leader of tomorrow may not have learned the lessons of history and are prone to make the same mistakes over and over again. An example: the trend of millennials embracing socialism as something good. That embrace ignores the fact that socialism has never worked historically. Ever.
That’s why a mentor to the next generation is so important. They can help their mentees see the value of reading and constant learning. It won’t happen on a large-scale, but it is a step in the right direction.
I tell my mentees to “never stop learning.” I enjoy learning new things, and often, just preparing for this blog takes me into new and uncharted waters. I hope my zeal for learning is infectious. I often send my mentees articles of interest to stretch them.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: A mentor can help his mentee upgrade their reading list by suggesting good or better books to read.
FURTHER STUDY: Google Effect: How it Affects Your Memory. New Republic (2014)
Disconnected: How to Reconnect our Digitally Distracted Kids by Kerstner
RESOURCES: For an ongoing list of good books to read, World Magazine has a list of recommended books in every category for free. It’s History Book of the Year for 2018 is titled A Nation Forged by Crisesby Jay Sexton.
Radical Mentors also has its own list of recommended books.
Goodreads has a list of best books by genre, decade or year.
WORSHIP: Listen to These Are the Days of Elijah by Judy Jacobs. It’s a bit long, but worth it.
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