FROM THE CATBIRD SEAT: Read any good books lately? – Evening News and Tribune

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Updated: October 27, 2021 @ 10:28 am
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Tom May

Tom May
Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” has motivated and inspired readers for over 25 years. Written in 1989, the book continues to be on best-seller lists in both business and self-help niches. His seventh habit – sharpen the saw – speaks to increasing motivation and energy by making time for activities that renew our spirits.
The Forbes website recently ran an article focusing on the “5 Coping Habits of Highly-Successful People During the Pandemic.” Talking to entertainers and business leaders, the article stressed the importance of optimism, controlling your responses, persistence, personal reflection and a balanced life. The article longs for the time when we return to a new normal.
“New normal” is a dangerous term to embrace. Actually people have been using the term since the end of World War I. In reality, change happens constantly; we wake to a “new normal” each morning. Rather, our goal should be to adapt to change quickly and in such a way that our moorings are not shaken or destroyed. When the ability to adapt becomes second-nature, then indeed our “new” will become “normal.”
Covey says, “We must never become too busy to take time to sharpen the saw.” The sluggish attitude and circumstances of today’s culture cries for us to care for the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual areas of our existence. Over the next several columns, we are going to pause to look at some specific things that we can do to improve the quality of life.
Educators were asked “What is the single most important thing you can do to assure your child’s success?” According to the Jewish Child and Family Services in Chicago (JCFS), a two-decade long study found that a home library increases vocabulary development, attention, academic success and eventual job attainment.
The results of the study are fascinating. If a child had college-educated parents, or the home possessed a 500-book library in their home, the child was propelled a little over 3 years forward in their education. The study found that even 20 books in the home positively impacted the child’s future education.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham lists reading as one of its suggestions of thing you can do to help improve your mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Whether you choose to read a positive book, a murder mystery or even a manual, reading still has proven health benefits.” A study by Scholastic showed that regular reading can decrease stress levels by almost 70% and can lengthen life by up to two years.
According to the website,, even small amounts of reading can make an incredible difference.
Successful people read. Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to his success. He turned to a stack of books nearby and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Elon Musk was once asked how he learned to build rockets. He simply replied, “I read books.”
The website lists some of the top benefits of reading. Obviously the most basic benefit is that it increases your knowledge. But in addition, reading disciplines and focuses your attention. Even reading for minutes a day improves your attention span and trains your brain to improve.
But for our chaotic culture right now, studies show that reading reduces stress and promotes peace of mind. The information in a book captures the flow of the brain. Images and flow are created in your brain, allowing you to “picture” the information. The creativity in your brain explodes like fireworks just by reading plain words. Some have said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
There are some other incredible benefits of reading that are often overlooked. Reading has been proven to help people sleep, something that is often lacking in times of turmoil and stress. People who get the healthy amount of sleep in turn tend to exercise more (because they have more energy) which then tends to encourage them to eat healthier. One healthy habit starts a domino effect.
Reading can also have a strong impact on your communication skills. Anne Cunningham’s academic paper, What Reading Does for the Mind, reported that reading improves analytical and critical thinking skills. Readers improve their general knowledge, understanding patterns and sequences better. In addition, reading increases vocabulary, improves memory and enhances writing skills.
Reading provides encouragement and motivation. Zig Ziglar once wrote, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” During the difficulties and trials of our day, reading can inspire you and spark hope.
Reading opens doors to a world beyond yourself. Let’s say that you are a manager of a dozen people at your business. Can you imagine how much better a manager you would be if you read a book a week that focused on your skills as a leader and communicator? Your horizon would be expanded by 52 authors who would mentor you in honing your abilities. When you put the power of what you learned to work at your job, you might well become a master in your trade.
From the Catbird seat, as we strive to find ways to adapt to the changes, worries and anxiety that has accompanied COVID-19, enjoying the stress-beating pleasure of reading seems like an easy answer. Information overload, misinformation and the uninformed can make life feel out of control. Pausing to refresh through reading provides a self-care strategy that can help you cope. Read any good books lately?
Tom May is a freelance writer and educator, and a columnist for the News and Tribune. Reach him at [email protected]
Tom May
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June 2021 Obituaries

Visitation: Friday, October 29, 2021 from 4-8 PM. Funeral: Saturday, October 30. 2021 at 11 AM. Cremation to follow.
Rocky Allen Jacobi, 63, of Henryville, Indiana, passed away on Sunday, October 24, 2021. Rocky enjoyed fishing, NASCAR, football, and IU Basketball. He was born on February 28, 1958 in Cherry Point, North Carolina to the late Leon Jacobi and Sue (Malott) Jacobi Sutter. Along with his parents…

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