Reading is loved by many but when it comes to practising it on a regular basis a lot of people fail. Ever wonder why?
More often than not daily life, responsibilities and “important” things come in between you and your love for the written word. Oft times we get too involved or busy in other things that we have no time for something as “time-consuming” or as “frivolous” as reading. Right? WRONG. All these are nothing more than excuses that we tell ourselves because if you really wanted to read, you will read – simple as that.
If you love books then they should be important enough for you to make some place for them in your everyday life. Reading is my first love and I manage to read anywhere from 2 to 8 books a month. I am a writer and manuscript critic, so sometimes work does come in the way, but so far as I can remember, in the last 7 years I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t reading something. Being a writer it is kind of a necessity for me, but the truth of the matter is that I would not have been a writer in the first place had it not been for my love of books reading.
This article is for those book lovers who haven’t been able to cultivate a reading habit for some reason and need a direction to follow or have, for some reason, fallen out of the habit of reading regularly and are looking for a way back in. This article is also for those parents who want to incorporate a reading habit in their child’s or teen’s routine.
How To Develop A Reading Habit
Reading should be fun, but sometimes to get into a habit you have to make a consious effort until it comes naturally to you. As a writer, I have to do the same for writing in order to get work done and reading is no different. Please remember that this is only for those who actually love reading and want to develop a routine that’ll help them in readign the books they long to read and not for those who love the idea of reading and have no particular interest in it.
So dive in and start on the right foot today:
1) Make a to-read list
Cultivating a consistent reading habit, or any other habit for that matter takes a bit of planning. To-read list is a list of books you want to read. Preparing a list of books ahead would not only help you in knowing what exactly to buy, borrow or issue but will also set the mood for a great start. Search the internet for top ten new releases (you can also go for different genres specifically), go through the first 10-12 lists you find and note down the books that catch your attention, or simply the ones that are common in all or most of the lists. If you want to research further, then go through some reviews of these books but be sure of spoilers and you’ll know which ones you want to read.
Another thing you can do is rake the corners of your mind and try to remember what books (classics or otherwise) you’ve always wanted to read? Or the movie adaptations that you liked. Throw some of these names too in your to-read list. This way your list would have a nice mix of new and old books which will make reading more exciting for you.
2) Get those books
Check the pricing of the books on your to-read list online, if you like what you see then buy the books in your preferred format. If the prices of paperbacks or hardbacks are too much, then try going for e-books; they are generally cheaper and can be read on any device including the most basic smartphones. If you don’t like what you see, then check your local bookstores or get the book from a library in your area library (if you are in India, JustBooks is a very good library option and serves great online too.)
Living in this amazing digital age provides so many options when it comes to book formats, so go crazy and try them all! You might love the snazzy new Electronic or Audio versions of books that you might have been sceptical about. Get at least two e-books and one audiobook. You can get free classic ebooks at Project Gutenberg (if you are in India, this link might not work, try this one instead.) And you can find tons of free classic audiobooks at LibriVox so you can try those instead of buying new ones which are horrendously priced in India. Though, you can try the free trial of Audible as well (I did and liked it so I buy a lot from there as they are pretty good.)
3) Create goals
Now that you have the books, chalk out your goals because without goals you won’t get far. Set a simple monthly goal or if you really want to be doing this, go for a yearly goal (once you get into the habit of reading, you can set weekly goals too.) For monthly goals, set the number of books you want to complete in a month and likewise for yearly goals. If you are just starting or re-starting after a long time, start with only one book as your goal. Then gradually go up from there. In setting an unreal goal you would only be setting yourself up for failure.
If you want to stick to one book a month only, then your yearly goal would be 12 books in a year, but that’s rarely the case because on your reading journey you’ll find some books you simply won’t be able to read fast enough and will end up finishing them earlier than planned and there will be some books that will turn out to be not as good as you expected them to be. Also, with each passing month, your speed will increase and so will your capacity, so there’s a good chance that you’ll be reading more than 12 books in the first year itself. I’d suggest setting 15 books a year as your first goal if you are serious about developing a consistent reading habit. A lot of my fellow book readers read 100, 200 and some even 500 books a year, so don’t underestimate yourself.
4) Create a routine
In order to develop the habit of reading, set aside anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour daily as your ‘reading time.’ It can be while you have your morning coffee or your breakfast, or in the afternoon just before taking a nap or with the evening tea/coffee or, my favourite, just before sleeping in the night – bed-time reading. Do note that this is the time you will be consciously putting into reading – which means for your ‘reading time’ you will deliberately sit, preferably in a comfortable chair or sofa or bed, and put a conscious effort and read the book you’ve picked up. Initially, you might not enjoy reading this way every time, but it’s okay to feel that way, just make sure to read for the minimum amount of time you’ve set for yourself. As the days will pass by and as you’ll start to take interest in the book you are reading, you’ll settle into the routine nicely. You can even set a number of chapters or pages to read every day instead of setting time.
Note that your ‘reading time’ should not be affected by any other times you might decide to read the book during the rest of the day. Treat these extra opportunities as a bonus.
5) Utilize weekends and holidays
Read twice or thrice the number of pages or chapters or minutes you generally read on the weekdays. If you have a book that is not too long, say 100-150 pages, then try and finish it over the weekend. It’ll be a great boost to your confidence and will help you ward off boredom which might otherwise settle upon you if you keep on following your routine for long periods of months.
Same way, try and use any unexpected holidays and vacations as an opportunity to get some extra reading time and finishing the book you started. A great way to make use of holidays is to listen to audiobooks while doing something mundane such as doing the laundry or gardening or cooking.
6) Always carry a book
This is like a thumb rule or a ‘mantra’ for all bibliophiles. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to work or just taking a walk to the local park or going to school or college or the mall or the movies; always carry a book with you. You should have a book at hand when you are out in the real world in case if you have to wait for someone at a cafe or classroom or if you get some free time on your commute from one place to another or maybe if the queue you’re waiting on takes a really long time to move? These and many more opportunities will always knock on your doors when you are outdoors and it is the best thing to have a book to indulge in at hand. It can be the book you’re already reading or some other book entirely. If carrying a book is physically impossible, then carry ebooks or audiobooks on your smartphones or tablet.
Most of the time I read more than one book at one time so I always carry my Kindle with me whenever I go out in addition to the audiobooks and ebooks that I can access on my phone through LibriVox Audio Books and GuteBooks Ebooks apps respectively.
7) Check off the books read and add new ones to the list
Check off the books you’ve finished on your to-read list – strike them through and I bet you’ll feel ecstatic doing it. Don’t forget to add new books to your list that you find along the way or that someone recommends you, but keep in mind not to add ten new books for every one book you read. It’ll only lead you down a path where you might get unnecessarily overwhelmed. Cut off one book and add another. Stick to this as much as you can. But again, don’t limit yourself entirely.
Once in a while, ditch your to-read list and pick up some random good book that you come across in a bookstore or a friend’s place or maybe a book whose adaptation is going to be released in the coming weeks.
8) Explore, experiment and enjoy
Once you have developed or at least have started with a reading habit, try to go for different genres. Explore new genres and revisit the old ones from your past. It’ll add another layer of self-indulgence to your reading experience. Also, try and connect with other readers amongst your friends or join online or local book clubs to be in the know of new releases and to discuss books you’re reading or want to read. I highly recommend that you join Goodreads because it is the best place to be online for any book aficionado. I myself run an online book club on Goodreads – RMFAO, and it has helped me and many others tremendously in reading a lot more and better books. I am also a member of a couple of book-dedicated Facebook pages and groups, such as Did You Read Today, and they are amazing and the interacting makes reading more fun as we share our progress, book hauls and random reading-related thoughts there with other like-minded bibliophiles.
Apart from that you can even join various reading challenges on Instagram (if yoou are a regular ‘grammer.) They greatly help in making the to-read lists more fun and diverse. You can also follow book-related accounts and hashtags like #bookstagrammers, #readingislife, and many, many more in order to get creative and fun ideas to make your reading a bit more rewarding.
In a couple of months, before you even know it, you’d be reading more than you ever imagined you could and that too without even trying too hard. You’ll just have to put in a little effort at the beginning and then once you develop the habit, you won’t even have to try at all. I followed these steps when I re-started reading 7 years ago and haven’t look back since. I started with reading 1 book in 2-3 months and now can read upto 10 books in a month.
Reading is a beautiful adventure and it should be enjoyed thoroughly in order to experience it completely. keep these steps in mind only at the beginning, later, when you develop your reading routine, forget all the pre-conceived notions and follow your instincts. This article is just to get you started on the right track.
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Note: All the images used in this article are my own (except for the featured image which was taken from Pixabay). Visit me @crazycatwriter on Instagram.