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New research reveals the power of a large home library (even if you do not read every book)




Reading books can obviously make you a better, smarter small business owner. But reading does other wonderful things as well.

Books can reduce stress; Reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent. Books can slow down cognitive aging; Compared to non-readers (people who read less than one book a year), readers experience a 32 percent lower mental decline in recent years. Books can even change your brain, at least in the short term: For up to five days after, reading can increase connection in areas of the brain that are responsible for language and sensation.

Smarter, less stressed, better brain function: What Small Business Owner Can Not Benefit From The Trifecta?

And then there is this: A 201

8 study of over 160,000 adults in 31 countries found that the more books that were present in the participants' childhood homes, the more skilled they are as adults in three important areas: Literacy, mathematics and the use of technology to both communicate and collect and analyze information. (If you're wondering, 80 books resulted in "average" levels, with skill improved up to around 350 books, after which performance flattened out.)

The benefit for aspiring entrepreneurs – or for any career – is clear. Communication skills are essential: For leadership, for pitching, for inspiring employees and partners, for sharing your vision and mission. Math skills also mean something; if you can not understand the business numbers … soon you will not have a business.

And when it comes to gathering and analyzing information: How can you react to new competitors, new technologies and new market conditions without the ability to not only understand data, but then turn it into actionable intelligence?

According to the researchers:

Book-oriented socialization, indicated by the size of the home library, equips young people with lifelong taste, skills and knowledge. Growing up with home libraries increases the skills of adults in (adult literature, adults 'numeracy and adults' technological problem solving) beyond the benefits that arise from parental education or self-education or professional achievement.

Which makes sense: Children who grow up in a home where reading is implicitly valued – and certainly, at least in some cases explicitly modeled – are more likely to be avid readers.

Oddly enough, advanced education does not necessarily outweigh the benefit of "many books in the home".

Adults who grew up with relatively few – if any – books in their homes and later obtained a college degree had a literacy level much like adults who grew up in homes with large libraries but only went to school for nine years. As the researchers write, a "bookish adolescence constitutes a good deal of pedagogical advantage" when it comes to literacy.

Granted, just filling a room with books will not ensure that your children, or you, become smarter. Correlation is not a causal relationship.

The fact that you have a large library can indicate that you value lifelong education, both formal and informal – both of which are important for the entrepreneur's success. It may also mean that you are more likely to encourage, nurture and support the intellectual growth and development of your children. (Or that having financial resources to gather a large library may indicate that you have the financial resources to better provide educational opportunities for your children.)

But it is this: As Inc. says colleague Jessica Stillman, and surrounds you with more books than you can ever read, says good things about your mind. These books serve as a constant reminder of all the things you do not know – which will help you stay intellectually hungry and forever curious.

And possibly will keep you a little more humble, since research shows that you are quicker to admit that you do not know anything, the faster you can learn it. As Jeff Bezos says, a key sign of intelligence is the will to change your mind, which only happens if you are willing to admit that your current thinking may not be the best mindset.

All this means that if nothing else, seeing all these books you have not read will remind you how much you do not know.

Humility, learning and willingness to change when new data presents it: There is another trifecta that any entrepreneur can benefit from.

The opinions expressed here by the Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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