The activity of reading has been transformed since the invention of the written word.  From writing on the walls of caves to the creation of paper; from the invention of the printing press to the connection to the Internet and the portable tablet, reading is not just a pastime for the elite or a leisurely activity on a cold, fall Sunday afternoon, it is a necessity. We read for interest and pleasure, but more importantly we read to keep up with the incredible updates occurring in our profession.

Many of us remember the 15-20 minutes at elementary school when the teachers stopped what they were doing and said. “Take out your reading materials. it’s reading time!” In the 60s this was USSR (Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading) and in more recent times it has become known as Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.). Whatever the acronym, the message is the same. Reading is important; it is the key to the Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes for which HR managers are recruiting.

New research reported in Science (October 4, 2013) has found that reading literary fiction as opposed to genre fiction (Danielle Steel’s Sins of the Mother) is directly related to empathy. Literary fiction such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich produced an impressive improvement in results measured on a test for inference and understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions.

The research found that the genre prompted the reader to imagine the characters’ introspective dialogues.  This awareness carries over into the real world. The inner lives of the complex individuals are difficult to understand but the reader’s expectations are upset by the realism which undermines prejudices and stereotypes.  They teach us values about social behaviour such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.

How does this apply to the workplace? Well, PRIME is often requested to provide training in areas like Organizational Change and Development. Topics that are key to these areas are Communications, Dealing with Difficult People, Negotiating and Conflict Resolution. Each of these topics requires us to understand those who are different from ourselves.

October 28th is D.E.A.R. day and P.R.I.M.E. would like to encourage you to take time out of your very busy corporate day to read some wonderful literature of your choice. Maybe a good place to start is with Alice Munro, our new Nobel Laureate!

Sydney Dean is the Vice President of Operations with PRIME Learning Group who provides guidance, knowledge and support to the PRIME family as a whole. With over 40 years in the public school system, Sydney truly enjoys teaching others as well.

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