Make Reading A Habit


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Friday, May 26, 2023
Woman reading outdoors

“Read more” is a very common New Year’s resolution. Many of us fall behind on reading for pleasure and for learning because we feel like we don’t have enough time, or that we’ve never developed good reading habits to make it a part of our daily routine. Now that the summer is upon us and the temperature is rising, there’s no better time than the present to stay inside, kick off your shoes, crank up your A/C, and crack open a book.

Whether you’re someone who wants to get back into the reader groove or someone who wants to learn how to become a bookworm in the first place, these tips can help you turn a new page in your reading life.

Set Daily Goals

Reading a big book can be daunting if you look at it as one hefty unit of text. Break it out into pages, chapters, etc. and it becomes much more manageable. Setting daily reading goals for yourself is an effective way of motivating yourself to make reading a regular habit. As with any good goal, the key is to pick something that is realistic and achievable. You’ll also want to decide if you want to base your goal around time spent reading or page counts. Do you want to devote 30 minutes to an hour a day reading? Or commit to reading 5-20 pages?

Something to keep in mind with page count goals is that not all books read the same. Some books have text and concepts so rigorous that you’ll need to unpack it slowly, so using a “chapter a day!” goal on a philosophy text may not be a good day. Adjust your goal depending on the kinds of books you’re trying to read.

Another tool to add to your timer: a kitchen timer. You could use the Pomodoro technique and sneak in 20-25 minute reading sessions throughout the day, using the egg timer to keep you track.

And finally: if you do the bulk of your reading at home, consider putting together a “book nook.” Creating a cozy space for you to read where you’ll be comfortable and free of distractions can help motivate you to stay on track with your reading.

You Don’t Need A Lot Of Time To Read

If you don’t have an hour to spend reading, don’t worry: that doesn’t mean you can’t still make reading a part of your routine. The trick is to fit in time to read whenever you can. There’s a reason why bathroom reading is a popular pastime! Reading can be a great way to kill time during errands. Planning on a trip to the doctor’s office or DMV? Bring a book so you have something to help you kill time in the waiting room. Going to the gym to use a stationary bike or the treadmill? You can read while you (safely) operate the machine. Taking the bus or an Uber? Commuting is a great opportunity to read if you’re a passenger; if you’re driving, consider popping in an audiobook. Looking for something to do during your lunch break after you finish eating? Fitting in a few pages before you go back to work is a fine way to unwind and stimulate your mind.

Think about the time you spend on your cell phone. How much of that time that you spend scrolling on your device could be spent getting a few pages into a new book? 

Start With Appetizers Before The Main Course

When one makes a commitment to read more, it can be tempting to get ambitious and tackle a big book. While cracking open a copy of Moby Dick or War and Peace can be a very rewarding experience, it’s best to start small and work your way up. The key to developing a strong reading habit is consistency; if you read something that’s too dense or complex too early on in your practice, it could discourage you from continuing to read. Reading can and should be challenging at times, but it should also be fun!

A good way to start small is with magazine articles and short stories. Poetry collections can also be an excellent way to consume a bite-sized morsel of literature every day without having to commit to a huge text. 

You Don’t Have To Read Just One Book

If you’re finding it hard to make progress on a book you’re reading, it’s okay to set it aside and pick up another. Sometimes you need to take a break from a read to give that information time to process. In these moments of contemplation and recuperation, it helps to have something else you can dive into. Try having something totally different to dip into when you switch books. Reading a science or history book? A piece of light fiction like a detective novel can be a nice way to entertain yourself in between consuming chapters full of dense technical information. 

Having two or three books in a reading rotation makes it so you’ve always got something to read. Anytime you feel like you’re stalling on a read, set it aside and switch gears to keep your momentum going. 

Read What You Like

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to read “the right books.” If reading feels too much like homework, we’re less inclined to do it. Give yourself permission to read what YOU want to read. Don’t get hung up on whether or not something is a classic or a “guilty pleasure;” if it interests you and holds the potential to entertain and/or edify, it’s worth your time.

Experiment With Formats

If you’re having trouble focusing with physical books, don’t be discouraged: consider the alternatives. Audiobooks make reading more accessible and enable you to enjoy literature while you’re on the move. Reading eBooks can also make reading a bit more convenient. Forget your book at home? That’s no problem when you have an eBook loaded up on your tablet or phone.

Graphic novels, comic books, and manga can also be quite enjoyable and mentally stimulating, as well. Studies have found that reading visual mediums like comics can actually help improve cognitive skills, as our brains tend to process and interpret visual information much faster than text.

Join A Book Club

A bit of (positive) peer pressure can go a long way. Joining or starting a book club offers you a powerful motivational tool to keep reading. Not only does the book club provide selections to make it easier to decide what you’ll read next, you’ll also be able to hear how other people experience these books. Getting those different viewpoints can illuminate your own reading experience and give you insight on how to see and interpret things you may have missed.

Track Your Progress

Keeping a reading list and tracking your progress are good habits to adopt if you want to read more. Research has found that the more often you monitor your progress in achieving a skill or goal, the greater the likelihood that you will succeed. There are various ways to track your reading: Pinterest boards; logging books on reading tracker sites like Goodreads or The StoryGraph; keeping a bullet journal or commonplace book; or even just taking photos of the books you’re reading and making a gallery of them.

One of the benefits of tracking your progress is that it can help you detect patterns and hidden biases in your reading habits. Do you gravitate strongly toward a particular genre or style of writing? Do you read a disproportionate amount of books from authors of one gender or particular ethnic background? This is also one of the useful aspects of maintaining a reading list of future books: seeing what you want to read next could tell you something about yourself.

It’s Okay To Quit A Book

Don’t fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy. You don’t need to finish a book just because you put a bunch of time into it if you don’t enjoy it. There are thousands of books you could read, and we only have so many days in our lives. Nothing can derail your progress as a reader like getting bored with a book, putting off reading it, and not moving on to something else. You get stuck in limbo, both unwilling to finish a dull book and unable to start a new one. Give yourself permission to be a quitter. Sometimes saving “I give up” and moving onto something else is the best choice.

Looking For Recommendations?

Interested in adding a few new titles to your to-read stack? Check out the Rio Salado library. Our library staff also has research guides and databases that can help you find books that are suited to your interests.


Article by Austin Brietta

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