The human race started out somewhere between the emergence of primates and the development of cuneiform script—sometime in that period of a bazillion years—great at learning by doing. And we dominated the Neanderthals by being highly social, which means we learned by watching as well.
Doing and watching fed our learning. So it makes sense that the majority of people today are S types—people who learn better from doing or seeing rather than from reading. A chart showing the types of the general population vs the Reddit population is a great way to think about readers vs non-readers. Reddit is a site for people who love to read—about anything and everything. All the Reddit lovers are likely N types.
So that most people don’t like to learn from reading explains a lot. Like why so few novels are sold each year. But also why so few people like being in school all day. The problem is that we treat reading as if it’s the Holy Grail of learning. Yet it’s not the way most people like to learn.
This explains all the IKEA humor. So few of us are great at reading directions. And it explains why my kids love watching the Food Channel. We did not learn to cook all those thousands of years ago by following directions—instead we did the only thing we could: by watching someone else make our food.
In short, reading is no way to learn. Increasingly I’m thinking reading is about pleasure. Yes, ideas are good. But seriously, we do not need to know what Pluto looks like in order to survive. We are curious. We like learning. But that doesn’t mean we have to read to learn.
In graduate school, where I learned that you do not have to read to pass tests about literature, I did end up reading The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes, and it blew my mind as it dissected all the lovely, fulfilling, joyful moments that come from reading. Like, the breath we take in as we pause between paragraphs. The white space is where the interaction between the reader and the text is the strongest.
I could go on. But I know better. Because most people don’t get that sort of pleasure from reading. And so what? It’s fine to not like to read.
I tell this to my ESFP son all the time. He is great at performing music, in part, because he doesn’t feel fulfilled looking at words on a page. I tell him people who love to read generally do not love to perform music. I tell him, you don’t like to read but you jump from swings.
So many of my coaching calls start with someone wishing they were someone they’re not. And it’s almost always an NT that they are wishing themselves to be. The want to be a reader, an intellectual, someone who collects high grades and good degrees and makes their parents proud. But actually, it’s the worst thing you can tell many kids, that they have to like to read. It’s like denying who that kid is.
My son doesn’t like to read. He reads to get things done. But he’ll try getting something done a million other ways before he’ll reach for a book. And he should do it that way: it’s human.