Once upon a time I was a little girl who ate a steady diet of paper and ink. I read books like they were going out of style. (Which thankfully, they never will.)
I spent hours in Nancy Drew’s neighborhood, with occasional visits to Narnia and trips to Green Gables. Around age 13, I found myself drawn across the Atlantic more often than not, in drawing rooms with Hercule Poirot or led through maze-like London streets by Charles Dickens.
In college, I took the most natural course, for me, which was to declare an English major. Oddly enough, although I read thousands and thousands more pages during the four years that followed, my appetite for books began to diminish.
I still loved books and called myself a bookworm, but secretly I began to wonder if it were really true. Required reading for my courses left little time to choose books on a whim, and I was increasingly occupied with other things, like earning money over the holidays to fund my study abroad, and falling in love.
By the end of my first year post college, I was a sporadic reader, only finishing one or two books per month.
As a former English major, librarian, and English teacher who owed so much to the stories that shaped her…it was embarrassing.
But from talking with my friends, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one whose page count has dwindled since college. For most of us, we’ve just gotten so occupied with other things.
Many of us try to find time to read, not understanding that it’s up to us to make time.
Maybe as a child you found your reading time in all the corners of your day: after school, between chores, waiting your turn for the dentist.
But it just doesn’t work that way when you’re an adult. If you look for time to read, you won’t find it amidst thawing meat, vacuuming the stairs, going to the post office, and parenting your children!
Give up the search, and make time instead. If we don’t make time for books, we’re simply not going to read them.
I want to be a bona fide bookworm again, and I’m willing to do what it takes to re-shape my reading habits into consistency.
Care to hear my action plan for getting there? Maybe it will help you find your place in a good book again, too!
1. Make reading a part of my two most predictable routines
Although they change as my life changes, my morning and evening routines are the most predictable things I do each day. If I make reading part of each of them, it quickly becomes habit. Currently, I read in the morning while Little Dude plays just before his nap. In the evening, I read after supper, after I’ve closed the computer for good.
2. Enact a weekly movie night
Yes, planning movies helps me read more! My husband and I have talked about how we want to make movies and TV more of an occasional occurrence, rather than the nightly norm. It’s hard to do. At the end of a busy day (and what day isn’t?) there are few things more alluring than vegging out with Netflix (or Hulu, or Amazon, or whatever your cup of tea). I’m not saying it’s bad to relax in this way, but it’s just…too easy. Too easy for it to take over all your precious evening hours.
Much like I’m intentionally being more “old fashioned” in the way I take pictures, I’m treating movies and TV like they’re not available 24/7. With the exception of an occasional TV episode here and there (my mom and I have a weekly girls’ night where we watch something), we’re trying to save our screen time for the weekends.
While this opens up the evenings for reading, it also makes movies more special. We can look forward to watching something together without having to go to work the next morning, and I make one of our favorite meals to enjoy while we watch, or we might get takeout.
3. Record every title I read
Growing up, my parents kept a record of every book we read. All of the titles were listed on lined paper in a three-ringed binder; each child had their own tab-divided section, and there were sections to record the read-alouds that Mom and Dad read to us, too. At the end of each month, we’d bring our stacks of completed chapter books to Mom, and she’d record the title, author, and month in our section.
I still need to ask my parents where they got this idea, but I think it’s brilliant. I was proud of all the books I’d read, and it gave me a sense of accomplishment to see them all listed out.
Over the years, I’ve referred to my reading record many, many times. I’ve used it to recommend books to others and choose books for students. Seeing all the titles written down helps me to remember what I’ve read; flipping through the pages, I can see the progression of my interests as I grew up.
Although I’ve been sporadic about recording my reads–predictably, ever since college–I’ve decided to re-instate the habit. Recording the books you read might sound like an odd practice, but I think kindred spirits will understand. It’s a special moment when you finish a book, and writing it down is a permanent memory marker.
4. Read three books at once
Here’s where I’m breaking from my former practice. While I used to feel compelled to finish one book before beginning another, I now think it’s beneficial to read a few at the same time! In the past, sometimes I’ve forgone reading because I just wasn’t in the mood for my current book. I’m giving myself more reading options so that I’m less likely to use that as an excuse! I’ve decided to read in three categories, and have one book from each going at once. My categories are Education, Enrichment, and Entertainment.
Education is for books on subjects I want to learn more about–anything from codes to constellations. I’m currently reading Narratives of the Wreck of the Whale-Ship Essex (this book, but a different edition) which contains firsthand accounts of a whale attack and shipwreck.
Enrichment is for books on personal growth, spiritual growth, or parenting and homemaking. My current read is The House That Cleans Itself.
Entertainment is novels. Before anyone points it out, of course novels are educating and enriching, too! It’s just helpful for me to be a well-rounded reader when I choose books within these three categories. For Entertainment, I’m burning through The Gateway Chronicles, a young adult fantasy series that gets better and better the further up and further in you go.
With three books going at once, I can read as my whimsy takes me. Sometimes I’m in the mood for digesting more knowledge, and sometimes I just want to get swept up in a story. With my three E’s, I have options, I stay engaged, and I broaden my scope (I used to read pretty much just novels and nothing else).
Before I stop talking here, I need to give you one very important warning, because something has happened to me over the last few months as I’ve been reading more.
I have an appetite that won’t be satisfied.
Books will never die, but suddenly I’m afraid I will before I have a chance to read all the ones on my ever-lengthening list.
My only consolation? The Bible mentions scrolls in heaven.
Scrolls…books…I’ll be reading in eternity.