Did you know that students who average reading only 1 minute a day end up getting bad grades? While student who read at least 20 minutes a day get As. That is based on a study done by the University of London back in 2009. Reading can really help you find success in life. All the great leaders that you’ve heard off are all avid readers. Now is the time to pick up that book and start reading.
Join Victoria Wieck as she talks to former inner-city teacher, now a sought-after speaker and coach, Danny Brassell, as he discusses why reading is so important.
Listen in as Danny answers these questions:
Why don’t people read?
How do we get people to read more?
Why is reading important?
What role does reading play in leadership?
What’s the relationship between reading and success?
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
The Importance Of Picking Up A Book Today With Danny Brassell
I have an amazing guest to talk about a topic that’s been very close to my heart for probably all my life. Danny Brassell is my guest. He’s going to unlock all the stuff that I was curious about. Many of you who read all these other episodes know that I am committed to education, especially children’s education, what’s wrong with our system, how that could help entrepreneurs be better employers, parents, friends and citizens and how we can impact the world. Without further ado, I want to introduce to you Danny Brassell, this episode’s guest. Welcome to the show, Danny.
Thanks so much for having me, Victoria. Thanks for spreading some joy. Entrepreneurs need a lot more of it.
We’ve got the real tough end of the stick in the last few years. In a few minutes, can you explain to us a little bit about your background and what you’ve learned teaching kids in the inner city? Many people here, including my TV audience over the years, know my background. I grew up in the inner city. I went to school in the inner city. It’s a pretty tough environment to be a student there.
Teachers like yourself have choices to go to other schools but you chose to stay in the inner city and impact their world, which is very admirable. Tell me a little bit about how you became a teacher. Was that your dream your whole life? Tell me about your experience there a little bit, the things that you wish were different or how you want to impact the world.
That’s a lot to uncover. Ironically, I’m considered America’s leading reading ambassador because I hated reading growing up. My father was a librarian. I always hated the public library. It always smelled funny. The furniture was uncomfortable. There was always some elderly woman telling me to be quiet. There was always some freaky homeless guy that thought he was a vampire hanging out by the bookshelves. I always hated it.
I had started my career as a journalist. I had the greatest job in the world in Washington, DC, working with all these editors of major dailies. I got offered the CityBeat for major daily for $16,500 a year. A friend told me that they were hiring teachers in South Central Los Angeles for $25,000 a year. I became a teacher for the noblest of reasons. It was for the high pay. It turned out I loved it. I was working with my little ones and all of a sudden, I noticed that they didn’t have a lot of the advantages I had growing up.
I was blessed. I was lower middle class but we always had food on the table. Both of my parents run the home. My parents would always read to us and in front of us. We always had plenty of access to reading materials. That became my passion. Schools do an adequate job of teaching kids how to read. The question I always ask people is, “What good is teaching a kid how to read if they never want to read?” I teach kids why to read.
The reason a lot of people don’t read is because they were forced to read things they didn’t want to read in school.
I’ve never had to tell a kid, “Go watch TV. Go play a video game.” I never want to have to tell a kid, “Go read a book.” I want them to choose to do it because they love it. That’s my passion. I always stress to entrepreneurs, “I’ve read about plenty of readers that don’t necessarily become effective leaders but I have never read about an effective leader who is not an avid reader.” Look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Warren Buffett reads ten hours a day in his office. Elon Musk still reads at least one book a day. There’s a model for all of us to pay attention to.
Let me ask you then. Why don’t people read?
The reason a lot of people don’t read is that they were forced to read things they didn’t want to read in school. When I was in high school, I was forced to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. No offense to the people who love The Scarlet Letter but the book is about Hester Prynne who commits adultery so she’s forced to wear an A on her chest. I asked my teacher, “Can I wear a B on my chest because I’m so bored reading this book?”
I want everybody reading to understand this. The research is very clear about this. It doesn’t matter what you read. What matters is how much you read. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading James Joyce or James the Giant Peach. People who read more, read better. For the entrepreneurs out there, if you feel bad because you haven’t read Don Quixote or War and Peace but instead you’re reading Ryan Holiday, John Maxwell, Russell Brunson and entrepreneurial books, that’s fine. Go with that. That’s what you should be reading.
When I don’t have anything to read because my house is under construction, I’ll go get an encyclopedia that’s 30 years old. For me, reading allowed me to virtually travel before the internet. Back in the ‘70s, it allowed me to expand my horizons and get an understanding of how other people live and how other people before me who lived centuries ago did things. You get an appreciation for how much easier it is for you when you do things.
The other thing I love about reading is I don’t have time to stress about anything. I’d rather read another chapter. In your opinion, what do you think will motivate people to read? When I say people, I mean even young people. It’s important that young people learn to read. I am concerned that the next generation of people who are in middle school or elementary school are running around with iPads. They’re getting answers to whatever they want on Google. A lot of times, they’re not accurate. It’s anybody who pays to be on the top of whatever list it is. How do we get people interested in reading? I’m assuming that has a little bit to do with motivation. It’s easier if they want to do it.
I love your audience because I’m an entrepreneur myself. I always say that entrepreneurs are always paying attention to opportunities where other people see challenges and dangers. The pandemic was a blessing to me. As a speaker, I lost all my income speaking because there weren’t any public events. I had to figure out another way to earn income.
During the pandemic, I created the world’s top reading engagement program online, which parents use for 2 months, working with their kids for about 10 minutes a day. In two months, we’ll get the kid to read, read more, read better and most importantly, love reading. We boost their reading by about 2 to 3-grade levels. All I’m doing every single day with parents and teachers as well is giving them tips on how they can get their kids engaged in reading.
Two numbers are secrets in my program. The first one is 67. A lot of people will tell you, “It takes 21 days to change a habit.” To those people, I say, “Show me the research on that.” It’s a fabricated number. I know exactly where the number comes from. It comes from a wonderful book written in 1960 by Dr. Maxwell Maltz called Psycho-Cybernetics. Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon. In the preface of the book, he said he noticed it took most of his patients about 21 days to get used to their new faces. A lot of self-help gurus, people I respect, started telling people, “It takes 21 days to change a habit.” That’s based on no research whatsoever.
In 2009, the University of London did a research study on habit formation. They found it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change a habit. The average was 66 days. I don’t like the number 66 so I threw in a bonus day. It’s 67 days. It depends on the type of habit you’re trying to change. For example, if you’re trying to drink a glass of water before breakfast every day, that might take eighteen days to form that into a habit.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, that’s going to take 254 days to change a habit. Here’s why this is critical. Let’s say you go on a diet. You follow it religiously for 21 days but on day 22, you fall off the wagon. Will you blame yourself? That’s wrong because research shows us that it takes at least three times on average to form that habit.
The second number I want everybody to remember is twenty. Researchers were trying to figure out what the successful habits of successful students around the world were. They found a variable that baffled them. They couldn’t believe it. It was the number of minutes spent reading outside of school. They looked at the low kids, the average kids and the high kids. For the low kids, the kids in the 20th percentile, the F students or the bottom feeders, they average less than 1 minute a day. That didn’t surprise anybody. That’s probably why the kids are at the bottom of the class but this did start all the research.
A quick tip, if your children are watching TV, put subtitles. That’ll improve their reading comprehension.
The kids in the 70th percentile, those that are in the middle, the C students or the average students, their average is 9.6 minutes a day. When I’m doing live training with parents, this is usually when the room gets quiet. The first-hand raises and the parents say, “Are you telling me if I can get my kid to read for ten minutes at home every day, I can take them from an F to a C?” I’m like, “That’s exactly what I’m telling you. There is a lot of research to support this.”
This was what startled researchers. For the kids in the 90th percentile, the top students or the A minus students, do they spend 3 hours a day reading for fun? No. Do they spend one hour a day reading for fun? No. The average was over twenty minutes a day. My job is to help parents find those twenty minutes a day. There are two things that people have to be aware of. First of all, being read aloud counts as well as reading on your own. For example, I ask parents, “How long does it take you to drive your kid back and forth to school?” They say, “Ten minutes each way.” I suggest, “Why don’t you put it in an audiobook? You took care of your twenty minutes going back and forth to school.”
The second important thing is they don’t have to be consecutive. I’m like, “You can do 2 minutes here and 5 minutes here rather than listen to somebody spout off their extreme political positions,” which I have no interest in. I’d much rather sit there and read an article in that amount of time. That’s all I’m trying to do with people. I show them ways to get engaged and read.
Let me give your audience a quick tip. I work with a lot of people in the inner city that say, “I have nothing to read at home.” I’d be like, “You do.” President Bush senior many years ago signed a very important law in this country that says every television set in America has to have closed captioning. The first tip I give parents is to turn on the closed captioning on the television. Parents will say, “If the show’s in English and the subtitles are in English, what good does that do?” I’m like, “That’s a fair point but let me make a point. Have you ever watched a show with subtitles and not looked at the subtitles?” It’s very difficult to do. Your brain is directed towards the text. There’s research to support this.
If you look at reading scores around the world, the more kids watch TV, the lower their reading scores are. That’s in every single country except for one. The country with the highest reading scores in the world and that watches the most TV in the world is Finland. People always ask, “How can that be?” Finland makes bad TV shows so what they have to do is import The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island and translate them and put subtitles on them. It’s a quick tip for all the parents out there. Start reading the subtitles if nothing else.
Parents themselves have to read as well. I’ve got a whole family of school teachers and they’re dealing with a lot of parents who grew up not reading themselves. They have no interest in reading. I talked to a pretty good friend of mine. I wrote a couple of books and sent her a book for her to give me real feedback. She said, “I’ve never read a book.” She’s old. She said, “I was forced to read books in school and I was horrible at it. I did the minimum number of paragraphs.” That was the last book she ever read. She never read another book. You got parents who don’t want to read either. That’s the other thing.
Danny Brassell is the Founder of TheReadingHabit.com. We are dealing with the generation of Millennial parents that have not read. I’ve got two Millenial kids at home myself. Luckily for me, my kids were addicted to reading because I read to them since they were very little. I didn’t watch TV because I’d rather read than watch TV. My kids also grew up not watching TV. They were reading. I see a lot of my daughter’s friends who are 30 to 35 years old that had mobile phones on their hips by the time they were in middle school. They were Google searching for quick fixes and haven’t been able to read.
When I grew up, I grew up with a role model. My parents read all the time. We had over 10,000 books when we lived in Korea. We had books in English and Chinese. My father had an incredible curiosity about reading. I didn’t speak English or Chinese but I was wondering. My father would say, “It was such a pretty cover. I was curious about this person so I bought it.” I was like, “How are you going to read it? You don’t speak Chinese,” but he had them.
Imagine that you can get your children to be addicted to reading as I was. If you’re interested in that, go ahead and check out both TheREADINGHabit.com and FreeReadingTraining.com. There are disclaimers on everything. We got disclaimers on aspirin, drugs or whether or not you’re eating a certain kind of food but there never needs to be a disclaimer on reading. No harm can ever be done by reading a great book and it could be anything in any language.
To any parents and grandparents reading this, maybe you might even have nieces, nephews or maybe even yourself, when you read great fiction, for example, or a how-to book on how to make more money, usually, the story starts with something. There’s a premise of a story. You’re living through all the consequences of all the different actions, whether you’re talking about a memoir or a how-to book.
In my book, I go through twenty different major mistakes that I wish I had never made or I thought were good. I talk about why I was thinking that this was going to be the next biggest thing and it flopped. You learn and do it again thinking you’ve learned everything. You paid a huge price. At this time, you’re a lot more careful but then the next thing flops. It could be inspirational or motivational. It’s all these things. Books are so inexpensive. You can download outdated books that are great content for $2.
There are plenty of sites you can do it for free.
It doesn’t take 21 days to change a habit. That is based on no research. It takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change a habit. On the average, it’s 66 days.
My kids didn’t have phones. I told them, “There’s no reason for twelve-year-olds to have an iPad.” My kids argued with me, “Every other kid has a phone.” I was like, “Do I look like every other parent? I’m not doing that.” I feel that reading is important and we should all get back to reading. If you read a lot, you have an understanding and appreciation for things outside of your little circle or world. It expands your knowledge base, understanding of people, tolerance and all these things that we wish we had more of as a society. It starts with you, the entrepreneur, then your children and your inner circle of people.
When I was pregnant, I was thinking, “How do I make sure that I’m doing the right thing?” Nobody has a manual on parenting 101 for your unique child. I read somewhere that when they looked at kids who were highly successful or were at the top 1% of all the Ivy League schools, it wasn’t that parents put the kids in nursery school when they were eighteen months old. It wasn’t the parents who pushed them to be better. It was the parent who read a lot and had tons of books at home. I’m making a point that you, as an entrepreneur, can do the same thing.
To those of you who read my show, you know I’ve been on TV for many years. I came here and spoke no English and have been doing nine-figure businesses. You would think that I would stop reading but I had already read 30 books by July 2022. I was able to go on vacation so I made up the time. COVID allowed me to do a lot of my work without having to show up to a TV station. I was able to Zoom. It cuts out a lot of time as well. The day you stop learning is the day you start to die slowly. If not physically, it’s mentally. That’s my philosophy.
Here is the other thing. My mother-in-law passed away a few weeks shy of 101. Three weeks before she died, she knew everything about our treatment. She talked to her heart surgeon and everybody. They gave her options. She had a health directive to not interfere with any artificial devices. She didn’t want to prolong her life. All this stuff was done years ago.
Towards the end, her loved ones, grandchildren and children were trying to tell her, “You need a feeding tube. It’s a little tube for five days.” She was reading this document at age 100. She used to be a school teacher. She died in July 2021 and in that year, she had already read 50 books. I wrote a book. It’s a 94,000-word science fiction book. She has never read science fiction before. I printed it all out like a manuscript. It was pretty thick. It was 350 pages.
I paid $5,000 for my editor to go through all the spelling mistakes. I had a former HarperCollins editor go through my manuscript. It was combed through. My mother-in-law is like, “Whose uncle is this?” She wrote all this stuff out. She would say, “This U in the uncle should be capitalized.” She found 58 different mistakes that my editors didn’t catch at age 100.
She was done with the whole manuscript in two days. She was so sharp. Everybody asks, “How can her mind be that sharp?” I met a lot of other people that were aged 80 or 90 at a place where she was recuperating. What I found out was that the minds of people who are avid readers stay sharp until the end. That’s crazy. She had a high-quality time until the last two days when she was pretty much on medication. She read her Bible. She did her normal activities. She still had a book there. She lived a pretty high-quality life even though she didn’t travel very much.
For those of you who are reading, if you’re a school teacher, hats off to you. I’ve got one grandchild and sometimes, I’m exhausted taking care of her for one hour. You’ve got 30 kids in a classroom. That’s a lot of responsibility. If you’re a great teacher, you care about the children that are in your classroom. You’re looking for answers to motivate them. This would be a great place for you to start. Go to TheREADINGHabit.com and FreeReadingTraining.com.
Let me give you a better site than that. If you go to FreeGiftFromDanny.com, I’ll give everybody an eCopy of my book, Read, Lead & Succeed, which is a book I wrote for a principal who was trying to keep his faculty positively engaged. I said, “I’ll write you a book.” Every week, I give you a concept, an inspirational quote, an inspirational story and a book recommendation on a book you should read but you’re probably too lazy because you’re an adult. I also give you a children’s picture book recommendation that demonstrates the same concept. You can read that in five minutes.
I’m also going to give everybody access to a five-day reading challenge I did with about 700 parents online. Every day for five consecutive days, I spent an hour giving all kinds of tips on how to get them more excited about reading. The more excited you are to read, the more likely you are to read. The more you read, the better you get. Those are my gift at FreeGiftFromDanny.com.
You had said something, which I loved. A lot of people are told to learn from their mistakes. I’m like, “That’s crazy. Why should I learn from my mistakes as an entrepreneur when Victoria mentioned to her entire audience that she has a book out there?” People should be buying that book and looking at your entrepreneurial journey and figuring out, “What were her missteps? How do I avoid those missteps? How do I surround myself with people that lift me rather than pull me down?”
My dad used to always say that a smart person learns from their mistakes but a super smart person learns from other people’s mistakes. You don’t have to make those mistakes. I love this topic. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your knowledge and dedication to this topic of reading. Quite a few of my audience are successful. They’re seven-figure women who’ve been in business for many years.
Some people are starting. A lot of my audience are people that have somehow persevered and balanced their families. The one complaint and question I always get is, “How do I balance my life? How do I live a more balanced life? How do I take care of my family, customers and everybody else and not feel exhausted?” The number one thing I always get is, “I don’t have time.”
I always tell people, “There’s no such thing as time management. There’s only priority management.”
You can make time for things that are important to you. In my courses, whenever I speak, I talk about how every morning I wake up, there are 30 things for me to do. I always do the most important thing to me first thing in the morning. I don’t leave it to last. If reading is important to you, you can schedule twenty minutes. I read for 2 or 3 hours a day. I’ve got a show, a TV show and books I’m writing. Plus, I do a lot of speaking. I’ve got kids and grandkids. I’m taking care of my mother. I got plenty of money to take care of her but at this time in her life, she needs family. I’m the oldest so I take care of her every day.
Here’s the thing. You can always find time for things that are important to you and your life and the things that are going to change your life long-term. If I had my choice, I’d be reading a lot more but I can still do two hours a day, which is quite a bit. Thank you so much for coming in. For those of you who are reading, this is an incredibly serious topic that’s very close to my heart. I cannot recommend enough to you to get all these free resources.
If you find that your children like to read certain types of books, that’s huge progress instead of not reading anything. You’re going to be a happier person and a much more productive person in the end. Thank you so much. Check out all the resources. If you have not subscribed to this show, please go ahead and do so. Especially this episode, share it with somebody you know so that we can impact the world together. Until next time. Please stay healthy and happy. Remember, happiness is a choice. I hope you make great choices. Thank you.
- Danny Brassell
- The Scarlet Letter
- James the Giant Peach
- Don Quixote
- War and Peace
About Danny Brassell
A highly sought-after speaker, trainer and coach known as “Jim Carrey with a Ph.D.,” Dr. Danny Brassell has spoken to over 3,000 audiences worldwide and authored 16 books, including his latest, Leadership Begins with Motivation. He is the co-founder of www.theREADINGhabit.com, the world’s top reading engagement program.