Most people wish they read more. It is an activity that is both fun and enlightening. It can help us be more knowledgeable and successful. However, it is an activity that many people don’t engage in very much. According to the 1999 National Household Education Survey, 50% of the U.S. population aged 25 and over read a newspaper at least once a week, read one or more magazines regularly, and had read a book in the past 6 months. What does this mean? It means that 50% of the population hasn’t read a book in the last six months! Looking at the other end of the spectrum, research shows that if you read ten books a year, you are in the top few percent of all people as readers. Simply stated, it doesn’t take much to be well read, but we do need to know how to get started. The following are ten suggestions to help you strengthen your reading habit – ways to find and make more time for reading. 1. Always have a book around. Don’t go anywhere without reading material. Keep magazines or short stories in your bathroom. Always have something in your briefcase to read. Keep a book(s) by your bed. Having things available makes it easier for you to steal otherwise lost moments. 2. Set a reading goal. Determine how much time you want to spend reading, or how many books you want to read over time. Your goal might be a book a month, one per week, or it might be to read 30 minutes a day. Start out with something attainable but still a stretch. As your habit builds, you might set higher goals. Setting a goal is the first step towards reading more. 3. Keep a log. Keep a list of the books you have read, or keep track of how much time you read each day. You might keep these lists in your journal or your day planner. My son’s log is on our refrigerator. My list and log are kept on my computer. It doesn’t matter where you keep it, just do it. 4. Keep a list. Make a list of things you want to read in the future. Ask your friends and colleagues what they are reading. Watch for recommendations in the newspaper and magazines. Once you start looking for good books, you’ll find them everywhere. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm up. By knowing what great stuff you want to read, you will reinforce your reading habit. 5. Turn off the television. Many people say they just don’t have enough time. Television is one of our major time consumers. Make your television watching more conscious and less habitual. There is nothing wrong with watching television shows you really enjoy. Where the time gets lost is turning it on, and scanning to find “something to watch.” Those are the times to turn it off and pick up your book! 6. Listen when you can’t read. Use your commute and other time spent in the car to listen! There are great audio versions of all sorts of books. Whether you want to “read” fiction, the latest self-help or diet book, it is probably available on tape. Don’t get locked into the idea that you have to read it – listening to the book still gives you the experience, ideas, and imagination that reading a book can. 7. Join a reading group or book club. Reading groups typically meet once a month to discuss a book they have all decided to read. Committing to the group provides a bit more impetus to finish the book, and gives you a great forum for discussion and socialization around the book’s themes. 8. Visit the library or bookstore often. You have your list, right? So you’ll have some ideas of what you are looking for when you walk in. But there is more to be gained by walking through places where books reside than just to make a transaction. Take time to browse! Let your eyes find things of interest. Let serendipity happen. Browsing will feed your mental need to read, and give you plenty of new things to read. 9. Build your own strategy. Decide when reading fits your schedule. Some people read first thing in the morning, some before bed. Some decide to read as they eat their lunch. And there is more to your strategy than just timing. Make your own decisions about reading. It is OK to be reading more than one book at once. It is OK to stop reading something before you finish if it isn’t holding your interest. It is OK to skim the book, getting what you want or need, without reading every page. Determine what works best for you, develop your own beliefs and ideas–then make them work for you. 10. Drop Everything and Read. My son’s fourth grade class has DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time. When the teacher calls for it, that’s just what they do. They read now. That is my last piece of advice for you. Do it. Just get started. Make it DEAR time. Now.
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