There are so many tricks and programs to encourage kids to read. There are so many ideas to encourage reading, because everyone knows literacy is vital. There are hundreds of lists of books that kids should read before they are ten, fifteen or finished school. But what about the moms? I have always been a reader, but there was a time in the heart of se7en kids under ten, where I literally forgot how to read anything longer than a telephone number. Quite simply, if I sat down for any length of time it was either to nurse a little person or to nap, or both, reading was just not on the agenda. The thing is we live in a culture where there are so many ways to absorb information and quickly, that reading anything longer than a paragraph is no longer essential to getting by. I didn’t say, excelling or getting ahead… just getting by, and when you are a mom of many littles then that has to be enough. But to be honest, I want to feel the heady joy of a trip to the library each week… I also want to dash home to read, not just to cook dinner!!!
Everyone knows that reading is not just a means to gather information but it is good for us in so many ways… good for our brains, good for our hearts and good for our souls. Almost everyone you ask wishes that they read more, in fact one of the over-riding new year’s resolutions across every genre of blog was to read more books. I am not so much a goal writing person as a getting things done person and I have been working on integrating more reading into my days.
- Practise it: Reading is a discipline. You may decide to run 5km every day, you may decide to not drink soda, and you may decide to sleep eight hours a night… all of these things require discipline and are things that folk would work at… though we aren’t very good at working at reading. Once I got out of the habit of reading, I literally had to retrain myself to enjoy it… a chapter at a time was almost too much. So I read by time, five minute slots, surely I could concentrate for five minutes… look up, take a little walk, then five minutes more… and suddenly a chapter a day was flying past again. If you spend ten or fifteen minutes on a chapter or two… then reading six days a week you have covered an hour and a half… and in a month at least six hours… thats a good chunk of time. Little time bites for the win!!!
- Schedule it: Every morning when I wake up I head for the couch and read a chapter… often it leads to another and another. The point is I make sure that my phone is out of reach… there is no checking for mail or reading the news. I find that the end of the day is too late, by the time I get to bed it is too late to read anything, even the easiest read is too difficult then.
- Less is More: Some books are harder to read than others. They normally get shuffled to the bottom of the pile because, we tend to put the difficult things off. But just aim for a chapter a day… once your chapter is done for the day, leave it until the next day. Most books aren’t more than twenty chapters long, so within a month you will have finished a book could have sat at the bottom of the pile for months.
- Read Books not Blogs: I know, I write a blog, and I love that folk read it… but to be honest, if you want to read more books then you have to read actual books. Even skinny little books… you have to read books. Blog posts are a couple of hundred words long and don’t have the concentrated pull on your attention, that is required to read an actual book. It turns out I am not too fussy about how I read books. I am a classic “love the paper book” kind of person, and I love to linger a little longer over fine words. But there are some books that I want to read really fast… books written by folk, whose blogs I follow, for instance… then I am happy to buy the Kindle version. I literally fly through kindle books and don’t find it necessary to read every word on a page at all. I would rather say to a blogging friend, the week their book launches, that I read their book and I liked that and this about it, than the hard cover sat on my shelf for more than a year before I even opened it. Otherwise, the father person and I like to listen to a book, gasp audible books are books too, just for fifteen or twenty minutes, before the end of the day… Shared time together, we both want to know what happens next, something to ponder about together that isn’t kids (!)… not something terribly intellectual… because: end of the day and all that. So we will pick something from the BestSeller List or a book we keep hearing about.
- Make the Right Choices: Choose books that you want to read, not books that you should read. If you choose books by the cover or because they are set in your dream destination…. then so be it. This is reading for pleasure and not degree purposes. I have a long mental list of books that I should read… so many classics that I never read at school. Books that perhaps I should have read and you can find fabulous lists, actually list after list, in Susan Wise Bauer’s Well Educated Mind. I read this book and loved her lists, but completely choked on the very first book. For two years I tried and failed to read Don Quixote… the very first book on the very first list… just saying, “That’s crazy!!!” So I went back to her list of classics and I made an amended list… of classics that I actually wanted to read. If at the end of the year I have read four classics, well that is four classics more than the year before. It’s not a race, it’s not something I have to prove… just something I am doing because I really wanted to do.
- Mix It Up: Different books in different places… I read different books at different times of the day. First book of the day is usually something a little trickier, an epic of sorts; and my after lunch read, while the kids are swimming is usually a quick read that doesn’t require all my attention. Something I am trying to learn, or understand I will try and read before I start working for the day. And books that I should have read as a child, but didn’t… well I have no problem reading those out loud to our gang. I try and read something classical, something quick, something biographical, something to do – crafty or cooking… often a journey or a challenge. And then… I have a steady supply of unfinished books. Books I may have dashed through to review, but actually wanted to read thoroughly and just didn’t have time to read. It really helps to have a range of books available to read and strew them where you are going to read them. It is no good having a beautiful pile of books next to your bed, if you always read on the couch. I have books stashed away everywhere… bag, coffee table, car, couch, next to where I do school (so that if a child keeps me waiting forever, I actually have something to do).
- Talk About it: I tend to ask my kids about the books they are reading at meal times: what are they reading, what do they enjoy about it and such like. I used to be all ears, but in an effort to become someone other than the chief cook and bottle washer, I started sharing what I am reading too… somehow verbalising about what I am reading settles the book in my head and it is true what they say about a journey shared. Very often I find myself encouraged when they ask what is going to happen next… read on, read on, read on.
- Have a Running Wish List: And here I am going to say, listen out for recommendations… if someone mentions a book they are loving then write it down. Check out bloggers that post their latest and greatest reads… Wander through a book shop from time to time, look at their book club recommendations, scan the latest and greatest shelves, I always take dozens of screen shots with my phone. You might have noticed that I have no problem in judging a book by its cover. Hop on the mailing list of a local publisher and check out the latest good reads. Look in the “returns pile” at the library… Honestly, having books that I am looking forward to reading motivates me to finish the book I am on.
All the books I have mentioned in this post I either own or borrowed from the library, I carefully chose books that I have read this year and yet were specifically not review books. Books that I review for our blog I do consider to be work… and set aside a chunk of reading time in the early afternoon, when the whole family reads their own books for half an hour to an hour every day, and I tend to be alert. That quiet time/reading time is critical to my job as a blogger and I wouldn’t be able to review books without it.