Intentionally Becoming a Reader

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The more that you read, the more things you will know.  

The more that you learn,

the more places you will go.

Dr. Seuss

One of my resolutions this year was to make more time for reading.  I knew if I didn’t intentionally decide to do this, I wouldn’t ever find the time.  And the funny thing is I used to love to read.  And the few times I did find the time to read, I always enjoyed it.  But I found myself picking up my phone more and more when I had free time.  Netflix before bedtime became my nighttime routine.  Before I knew it, an entire year had passed, and I could count the number of books I had read on one hand.  A few years earlier, when my youngest was learning to read, I had instilled a nighttime reading rule in our home; you could stay up to 9:00 pm if you read/looked at books from 8:00 till bedtime….and it could be in Mom’s bed as long as you were reading.  As you can see, it was a big success. I decided the time had come to implement a reading rule on Mom as well.

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One thing I have learned about me and habits is that I need to concentrate on the why of the habit and not the what of the habit.  I am a list-maker at heart, so my why was answered in the form of a list.

Why Reading is a good idea:

  • Mental Stimulation-Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, since keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from losing power. You have heard the term “use it or lose it,” right?  Well, the brain is like any other muscle in the body and requires regular exercise to keep it healthy and in shape.  
  • Reading Is Contagious- Did you know that you can help others by reading? Many parents and adults wish that their families had read more. Exposing your children to your reading habits can be a great way to help encourage them to pick up a book.  In a world where everyone is constantly plugged in, your kids seeing you intentionally choosing to do something different makes a definite impact in their life, even if they don’t tell you! 
  • Improved Concentration- In today’s always moving world, our attention is often drawn in a million different directions.  When you are reading, you are training your mind to concentrate on one thing at a time.  The benefits gained from improved concentration carry into other areas and tasks in your life.

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  • Increased Vocabulary-It goes without saying that the more you read, the more words you are exposed to.  Being well-spoken and articulate can lead to greater self-confidence, which, in turn, can lead to increased job performance.
  • Becoming A Lifetime Learner- Education is not cheap!  Classes, seminars, and online courses cost money.  But you know what is free?  A trip to your local library!  Is there a subject you are interested in and would like to learn more about?  Or how about a skill you need to brush up on for work?  There is a high probability that there is a book available at your local library that can help.
  • Better Conversationalist– As you begin to explore different books, magazines, and newspapers, you will find that you have more to add to conversations with co-workers, friends, and family.  As you talk about what you have read with others, you strengthen your communication skills, your listening skills, and begin to develop opinions and ideas that are your own.
  • Reduces Stress-Losing yourself in a great story is a perfect remedy for the stress of day to day life.  The very act of slowing down and concentrating on what is in front of you can help you relax and unwind.

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So now that I had my why I needed to figure out my how.  One thing I have been practicing this year is breaking big goals down into small bites.  I admit that the Type A in me gets a little antsy and wants to make changes in one big step.  But I am proud to say that it is now towards the end of January and I have managed to keep all but 2 of my tiny steps toward big goals-goals…way to go me!!!!  And of course my how has to be in the form of a list…

How to Develop a Reading Habit

  • Develop Small Goals-Instead of saying you want to read 40 books this year after not reading consistently for the last three years, say you will read 10 minutes every day.  After you have mastered that consistently, add ten more minutes.  I think it is a good idea to review your goals monthly and adjust them as needed. I also think it’s a good idea when first establishing a new habit, to try to do the activity at the same time every day.  Before you go to sleep, first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, while the kid’s nap, just go ahead and write it in your schedule.   Before you know it, you will be checking books off your reading list.  Speaking of which…
  • Start A List Of Books You Want To Read-Has this ever happened to you; you are listening to your favorite podcast or reading your favorite blog, and they are talking about a book they just finished that changed their life.  Or you are at work and hear some co-workers talking about a fantastic book they just completed.  You tell yourself you will remember the name and check the library or book store for it.  I can only speak for myself, but I rarely remember it and end up just getting frustrated when I try to find it.  Just keep a note on your phone or a page in your planner with the names of books people recommend. Next time you are at the library or a book store, you have your very own curated book list at your fingertips!
  • Choose The Right Medium For YouNowadays, there are multiple ways that you can experience books: read them either with a physical book or electronically on your favorite reader, or even listen to them via audiobooks.  The key is to find what works for you. I need to feel the book in my hand and read it with a pen and highlighter nearby.  I tried a Kindle, but it wasn’t the same feeling.  But I do know one of the benefits of audio and e-books is portability.  Which leads me to my next point…
  • Always Carry A Book With You-As we just mentioned, this is very easy with phones, tablets, and e-readers.  You can easily have thousands of books available at the touch of a button.  But even with physical books, it is possible to keep a book with you,  Granted, we aren’t talking huge, oversized coffee table-sized hardbacks, but a normal-sized book is very do-able.  Slip it in your backpack, purse, or briefcase.  I always keep a book in the car for when I am stuck in traffic or find myself with a bit of free time at a coffee shop.

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  • Surround Yourself With Books-Ok, maybe surround isn’t the right word, but have books located throughout your home.  We have bookshelves in every bedroom, the den and the living room.  Even though there are no bookcases in the kitchen or bathroom, there are still stacks of books placed in strategic, but out of the way places.   There are also lots of pillows and throws scattered about to make any chair into a cozy reading nook!
  • Read Aloud To Your Kids-Even if your kids are older and read on their own, they probably still love to be read to.  I know when I was reading aloud to my youngest, my older two would find their way into the room.  And as an added bonus, you can go back and re-read some of your childhood favorites or maybe discover new ones that you fall in love with.  Which leads me to the next point…
  • Make It Enjoyable-If you start reading a book, and it isn’t keeping your interest, stop reading it, and move on to the next one on your list.  Sometimes I feel like we take the same approach to books as we do our “clean your plate mentality,” we are somehow wasteful if we don’t finish every book we start.  That’s simply not true.  Life is too short to read boring books.  By giving yourself permission to quit, if you don’t like it, you will become more open to trying new genres and discovering new authors.  And on that note, make sure you read a mix of fiction and non-fiction.  They both play an essential part in a well-rounded book diet.
  • Discover, Or, Rediscover Your Local Library And Used Book Stores-Granted, Amazon has made it extremely easy to buy books online and have them, many times, the next day.  But there is something to be said about looking through rows and rows of books in person.  It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  Most libraries offer e-books as well as physical copies for absolutely free.  And a lot of libraries have used book stores with incredible prices, with all proceeds going to support the local libraries.  Everybody wins with that choice!

The most important thing is to just get out there and read.  Don’t wait for your schedule to clear, the kids to get older or any other excuse.  To quote the Nike slogan, JUST DO IT….you won’t regret it!

I do believe

something very

magical can happen

when you read a good book.

J.K. Rowling

 

 

 

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