As an English teacher and a writer, I’m obviously all for reading.
It won’t surprise you to know that when parents of my students ask me what they can be doing to help their children, 90% of the time reading is the answer.
That’s because of the transformative effect it has… but I think you know that already.
One of the problems, however, is that we’re all so busy and reading takes a long time. That doesn’t always have to be a problem though, here are a few things I’ve suggested, and tried personally to increase my reading time (no matter how busy I get).
Build it into a routine
We are all creatures of habit, it’s a human thing, so even if you think you’re not someone who has habits – sorry you do.
I’m very habitual and enjoy keeping to a habit. Routine allows me the thinking space to consider the important things – not just what I’ll wear today or have for dinner. I’ve written about habits for creative people here.
Build a routine around your reading, for example, ten minutes before bed, or just after dinner.
To make this easier, leave your book open in the place you spend this time – next to the bed or on your dining table.
Audiobooks have actually changed my reading life. And yes listening to an audiobook is the same as reading – obviously on a beach, with all the time in the world, I’d prefer to read. But for a busy reader, audiobooks are incredible.
Two years ago I would read about five books a year, mostly around the school holidays. Now with audiobooks, I listen to 2-3 a month. Ten-minute drive, listen to a chapter. Doing the washing up, listen to a chapter. Walking to the shops, listen to a chapter.
I’d recommend Audible as they have a great selection and if you’re not already a member they give you your first book for free.
Stop scrolling and start reading
Waiting in line at the supermarket, read a few pages. Waiting for the kettle to boil, read a few pages. You could basically be reading a few pages in any moment you’d normally be mindlessly scrolling. If that totals around 20 minutes a day (which is average), you’re reading a shortish book each month.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you have to carry a paperback around in your pocket anymore – although of course, you could if you wanted.
With the books app that is probably already on your smartphone, you can carry dozens of books in your pocket. If your phone hasn’t got a reading app, I’d recommend the Kindle one as it’ll sync with an actual Kindle if you have one.
It’ll also never use your place and allow you to share your reading with other people.
Obviously, it may not replace the feeling and enjoyment of reading a real book, but if it’s a decision to read or not read, that’s what I would choose.
Short stories or novellas
The problem with only being able to read for a few minutes a day is that longer books will take you months. In fact, the very thought of picking up that heavy literary tome and reading two pages is enough to make anyone give up. Pick something sort and fun which even if you just read for ten minutes you’ll complete in a few weeks.
There’s no shame in that – reading is for relaxation as much as anything else.
Make is social and read with someone
If you live with a partner or have children, read with them. You could either read out loud or if you don’t fancy that, get two copies of the book and read side-by-side. Being able to talk about what has happened afterward will make it totally worth it.
You can even do this with people you don’t see often, reconnect with an old school friend by reading the same book, or share a short story with a parent.
Wipe the slate clean and make it fun
Over the last few years, I’ve accrued a big stack of important and worthy books I know I should read. There are even a number of classics I’ve never read (most of them, probably).
Although it’s great to have these reading targets, this stack of books can become overwhelming and put you off even starting. Don’t be afraid to wipe the slate clean, put the classics away and pick up something that appeals, excites and entertains.