I’m quite delighted to introduce Amy as a contributing author to this blog! Amy previously gave stellar advice on how to help children love chapter books and she blogs at Sunlit Pages. I’ve long admired Amy’s intelligent posts about the books she reads with her kids and on her own and I know you will learn tons and tons from her articles here, too.
Last year, I read 64 books.
With four boys (ages 6, 4, 3, and 7 months), I don’t have loads of free time, but reading is very important to me so I try to make it a priority.
On occasion, a friend will ask how I fit in a substantial amount of reading amid the many demands of daily life. Sadly, I’m not a speed reader (my mind is blown by those of you who can read 150+ books in one year), but I do have a few ways I squeeze in extra bits of reading.
Read Multiple Books at the Same Time
I always have more than one book going at any given time. My happy number seems to be about three or four (earlier this year, I caught myself with seven titles halfway finished, and I knew I’d crossed the line), divided as followed: a book I’m reading, a book I’m listening to, a book I’m reading aloud to my kids, and a slower book I’m reading in bite-sized chunks. That way, I always have a book I can enjoy, no matter the circumstance.
Choose the Right Book for the Right Time
This goes along with the previous tip, but here I’m referring specifically to print copies. I didn’t begin motherhood knowing this trick. I used to always make myself finish what I was reading before picking up a new book. But one time on a car trip, I realized that the nonfiction book I was reading didn’t lend itself well to lots of interruptions from kids asking for snacks, activities, etc. If I’d brought along a lighter read, I could have read half the book whereas I only got through about thirty pages of the denser material. I’ve found it really helps to evaluate your time and choose a book that’s going to go well with the attention you can give it.
Listen to Audiobooks
I used to think audiobooks were for the non-readers out there. But after I had my first son, I became a convert. Suddenly mundane jobs like washing dishes and folding laundry were exciting. Out of the 64 books I read last year, 17 of them were audio. And in years past, as many as half of my books have been listened to. Audiobooks also help me get through longer or more difficult works–like classics or dense nonfiction titles.
If you are really serious about listening, read on for my advanced tip.
Listen at Double Speed
Did you know if you listen on an ipod or iphone, you can listen at double speed? I started listening almost exclusively this way about a year and a half ago, and I will never go back to my old ways. I listened to East of Eden, Oliver Twist, and other chunkers in half the time, which is significant when you’re talking 12 hours vs. 24.
Just a word of warning: it will be a little scary at first. The first few seconds at double speed can sound like a runaway train. But make yourself commit to listening to just five minutes at that speed, and most likely, at the end of the five minutes, it will sound completely normal. It’s like your brain and ears sync up, and you can still hear all the same nuances, inflections, and voices . . . but just faster.
Set Reading Goals
This will be my third year to set some specific quantity and quality reading goals for myself. For quantity, I start with a comfortable number and then bump it up by a few just so I have to push myself a little (honestly, it’s not very much fun to reach my goal in October; I want to feel the pressure of the final few weeks of the year).
I also set some quality goals so that I don’t get so caught up in the numbers game that I’m only reading fluff. These goals can range from “a new genre” to “a 19th-century classic.” If you’d like some ideas, you can check out my posts with my 2013 and2014 reading goals. [Editor’s Note: Also check out Amy’s 2015 reading goals.]
Join a Book Club
If you want to get back into reading but don’t know how to squeeze it in, a book club might be the perfect solution. It’s only one book a month, you don’t have to pick it, and you have a deadline. I belong to an amazing group of friendly, witty, and intelligent women. We have been holding monthly book club meetings for over five years, and I have found some of my very favorite books this way. If you do not have a book club in your neighborhood, then start one yourself! You really only need four or five people who are committed to reading the book to have a good discussion. We use the first month of the year to plan out genres, books, and hosts for the coming months.
Read to Your Kids
Even if I didn’t have kids, I would still read children’s literature. In fact, my own to-read list is littered with children’s classics and middle-grade novels I can’t wait to get my hands on. The great thing is that since I do have kids, I can make a dent in that to-read list by reading aloud to them. It’s a win-win situation: I get to spend quality time with them and read a book that interests me.
Limit Screen Time
I have a little mantra I repeat to myself on an almost daily basis. It is: “I’d rather read than waste time.” If you’re anything like me, you know how easily a half an hour can disappear while mindlessly scrolling and clicking. At the end of the day, I get a lot more satisfaction knowing I spent that half hour in a good book than on facebook. (That said, I get it that sometimes the one thing your mommy brain needs is the relief that comes from not doing anything.)
Always Have a Book Waiting in the Queue
I’m pretty adamant about this one, to the point that I usually have too many books waiting on my nightstand. You’d be surprised how many more books you can squeeze in if you don’t have a few days’ lull between books. It really does accumulate over time.
Also, if you get most of your books from the library like I do, it’s best to plan ahead a little bit because there are some books you have to reserve for weeks (or even months!) ahead of time.
Let Your Kids See You Reading
I kind of love this rule. All the authorities say it: If you want to help your kids become lifelong readers, let them see you reading (and enjoying) books. So if you’re ever in the middle of a really great book and can’t put it down, you can always assuage your guilt by telling yourself that your kids, although neglected, will probably become avid readers because of it.
May 2015 be a year full of reading for you! (Oh, and if none of these tips bring the desired results, try neglecting the dishes or the vacuuming. That seems to be very effective.)
Amy is an avid reader and the mother of four rambunctious boys. Her life goal is to make them as obsessed with books as she is. (Judging from the dozens of books scattered all over her house, she has been successful so far.) She blogs at Sunlit Pages where she writes about a variety of books–from what she is currently reading to her kids’ favorite picture books.