How to Become a Reader: 5 Tips

So you want to become a reader. YAY! Imagine Mick cheering on Rocky. Okay, perhaps not the screaming. But here’s a good dose of cheer, rooting for YOU.

Perhaps you see the bookshelves in the little convenience stores in the airport and wish you were interested. Perhaps you feel a little guilty that you don’t like reading. As my family and I like to quote from the movie Amazing Grace, “No shame!”

Shame never helped anyone reach a goal anyway.

The good news is, you CAN build a habit of reading. While you may never develop a voracious appetite for Shakespeare (it’s okay; I’m an English teacher and even I must muster up a good deal of willpower before I tackle that master), you certainly can spice up your life with a little bookishness.

There’s no magic fix, and building a habit takes time and commitment, but hopefully these tips help (like a scarf on a cold day 🙂 )

Are you ready?

1. Track Your Reading

Before you click out of this post, thinking, “That’s the whole point! I DON’T read!” think about it. Anything you want to grow in, you track, right? Runners who want to improve their game clock miles, dieters who want to shed weight count inches, and couples saving up for a house count dollars. (If you want to learn more about habit tracking, check out Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect or James Clear’s Atomic Habits). Each year, I start a note on my phone and track the books I read. I break it into the following categories:

  1. Read
  2. Reading
  3. Read a portion of
  4. Want to read

The very act of tracking makes you more likely to perform the action you’re tracking. It’s a form of accountability. Plus, it’s fun to watch the list grow, and at the end of the year, you can put asterisks next to the titles you especially enjoyed.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Abandon Books

I used to feel like I had to finish a book. Now, if I’m not into a book, I set it down and find one I like better. When my 7th-grade students ask if they may change their book, I ask how far they’re into their current one. If the answer is one page, I make them read a little more. If they’ve read three chapters and hate it, I encourage them to pick a new one. There are SO many good books out there. Don’t waste time on one you just can’t get into.

3. Be Social About Reading

Do you have a friend who is a reader? Ask her what she’s reading. My sister-in-law asked her local librarian what his favorite books were (he was delighted to be asked). Try a social reading app like GoodReads (btw, this app also tracks what you read, so you can use this platform to knock off Tip 1 on this list). Like most joys in life, reading is so much more fun when you can share it with someone. Are you road-tripping with a buddy? Try listening to an audiobook (more on that later). Did you friend gush over a book? Read it and chat with her about it. And when YOU read (because you will), TALK to someone about it. Even if you don’t like the book, talk about what you don’t like.

4. Try Audiobooks

If you feel you simply don’t have time to sit with a physical book (young moms everywhere), try listening. You can multitask—clean your kitchen and cozy up to a mystery. Grind out that daily commute while gleaning from a spiritual development book. Of course, Audible is a popular app, but there are several free Audiobook (and eBook) apps if you possess a public library card (which, ahem, you should). Hoopla and Libby are two I recommend.

5. Read with a Pencil in Hand

I admit this tip takes things up a notch. But let’s say you do have time to sit down with a physical book. Let’s say you’re reading a nonfiction book. Interact with it. Underline words that move you. Ask questions in the margins. Scribble your disagreements. I mark up my margins with smiley faces and exclamation points. Reading a novel this morning, I jotted down the title of a song it reminded me of. Be curious. The goal isn’t to get through the book; it’s to get the book through you.

You Can Do This

All right, friend, pick ONE of these tips, and go for it. Don’t be afraid to fail. As Michael Cane’s character in the Batman movies so wisely asks Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall?” To which Bruce replies, “To learn how to pick ourselves back up.”

If you don’t become a reader overnight, don’t give up. Just keep getting back up.

You’ve got this. Here’s to a new reading adventure!

Photo Credit: Photo by Maël BALLAND

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