Happy 2021, everybody! A new year brings new goals and resolutions, one of which is often a desire to “read more.” Even if you’re already an avid reader, you likely have a huge stack of books teetering in your TBR (To Be Read) pile that you guiltily eye from time to time. I’m here with a list of tips to help you not only read more, but release you from guilt regarding your various reading habits.
I’d like to point out that these tips are good for people of all ages—for you parents out there, allowing yourself permission to practice these things models behavior that will help your children be better readers too.
Let me know which tip works best for you, or if you have any others that you’d add to this list!
1. Try a reading challenge.
If you’re competitive, goal-oriented, or love making lists, a reading challenge just might be for you. I’m all of those things, so last year, my goal was to read 52 Books by Women of Color (I actually read 53!).
2021 is going to be much busier for me, so I want to read less but challenge myself more. Because of that, I’m trying Book Riot’s 2021 Read Harder Challenge. Many local bookstores have their own reading challenge lists and the library does as well.
The Youth Services department at FPPL has just launched two reading challenges for young readers and pre-readers: a revamped version of 1000 Books, plus Winter Read 2021 (sponsored by Simon and Schuster) with the theme of inclusivity: Books Like Us. You can sign up for these programs on Beanstack here: FPPL’s Reading Programs For Kids.
2. Embrace different mediums (audiobooks, ebooks, graphic novels, etc.)
Some people have very strict ideas on what “counts” as reading, but there’s absolutely no reason to limit yourself. I used to be a “physical books only!” person, but in 2020, I learned to love e-reader apps. I always have my phone on me so I can read whenever, wherever, and because I’m a mood reader, I have a huge selection of books to choose from. I’m not limited to just whatever book I happen to have on me at the time.
I have issues with auditory processing, but many of my friends are all about audiobooks. A close friend, who has to juggle being a new mom with working from home, depends on audiobooks to make household chores and childcare both productive and pleasurable. Another friend is a very visual learner and has issues with text-based reading, but they absolutely devour graphic novels. Find what works for you.
3. Have several books going at once
As I mentioned above, I’m a mood reader. In the past, I used to start a book and refused to move on until it was finished, even if I didn’t like it or feel like reading it at the time. Now I’m better attuned to my moods and will choose my reads based on that. There’s no reason for me to force my way through a heavy Nordic noir if what I’m craving is a sweet rom-com. It’s just like when you choose any other form of entertainment—you don’t have to watch a documentary if you’d really rather just watch a rerun of your favorite sitcom (or vice-versa). Adapting what you’re reading to how you’re feeling will greatly increase your reading output.
4. Don’t be afraid to DNF (Do Not Finish)
I used to be the worst about this. I had a very “if you started this, you better finish it” attitude, even if I hated the book I was reading. But unless you’re doing this for work or school, there’s no reason to force yourself. Reading is meant to be pleasurable, not a chore to check off your to-do list. Now I’ll give myself 50 pages or so. If I’m not feeling it, maybe I’ll set it aside and try it another time. It’s possible that I’m not in the right place to read that particular book and will enjoy it better some other time. That’s what I did with Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series, and now it’s my favorite. But if I had forced myself to finish it even when I wasn’t in the mood, I might’ve ended up resenting it.
That said, 50 pages is usually enough to know whether or not a book is for me and worth continuing. If at any point you think, “I’m really not enjoying this. I don’t think it’s for me,” just stop. It’s wonderfully freeing. There are so many wonderful books out there—why waste your time reading something that’s not for you?
5. Fit reading in and around your schedule
So many people seem to think you can only read if you have a full hour or more to dedicate to it, but that’s not true. Listen to an audiobook as you get ready for school/work in the morning and during your commute. If you take public transportation and don’t get motion sickness, you can read a physical copy or ebook rather than scroll through social media for the millionth time.
Like I said earlier, I love ebooks because it means I have reading material on me at all times. I can read while waiting in line at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, at the laundromat, on my lunch break, etc. I can’t go to the gym, so I try to listen to audiobooks while I take my walks. My auditory processing issues mean I really have to focus on the book, which means I’m not focusing on how much I dislike exercise and cold weather.
Make it a habit to unwind with 15-30 minutes of reading after school or work rather than turning on the TV. Fit it into your pre-bedtime routine. You’ll be surprised how much time you have for reading when you break it down into manageable chunks.
Hope these tips help! Happy reading!