I don’t mean to brag or anything, but during my childhood, I was a repeat champion who could not be defeated. Many tried, but to no avail. Because year after year, I was the class winner for the MS Readathon. What I lacked in athletic ability I possessed in reading skills. I hated physical education class and loved any opportunity to go to the school library. The smell of the books, the card catalog files, the Dewy Decimal System — it was my happy place.
Somewhere along the way, reading time became elusive. My college years were committed to reading textbooks, with only an occasional opportunity to read a book for fun. Early motherhood meant reading the same picture books on repeat, just waiting for the day when I had the energy and the time to read books for myself.
Here I am, a mom with an emptying nest, and I still love reading. Yet, I can’t seem to keep up with a growing list of book recommendations because everything else seems to crowd out reading time. The truth is not that I lack free time; it’s just that I’ve allowed my habit of scrolling and reading 280 characters or less to hijack the discipline it takes to sit and read a book. I’ve allowed myself to be too busy to read, even though reading has always been something I enjoy.
So, I’m giving myself a challenge, and I’m asking you to join me. It’s a 21-day reading challenge to help establish habits of reading. Let’s implement one or more of the following ideas for 21 days in order to create new reading patterns.
Read at Mealtime
Pick a book to read to your kids at mealtimes. Even preschool kids can sit and listen to short chapter books. Keep the book on the kitchen table to read out loud during breakfast and lunch. When our young nephew comes to visit, my husband reads Harry Potter or The Hardy Boys to him. Consider a book you loved as a kid, such as the Little House on the Prairie series or Junie B. Jones.
Set a Reading Timer
Set a timer for 15 minutes of daily reading time. Put a basket of board books or age-appropriate books in the living room and set the timer for 15 minutes. Let your child read while you either read with him or her or sit nearby reading your own book. Busy books with lift-a-flaps or other interactive pieces can appeal to even young toddlers to enjoy independently.
Listen to a Book
While you drive car pool, cook dinner, or fold laundry, listen to an audible book. Many of the activities you tackle in a day can be completed as you listen to a book.
Read at Bedtime
Make reading part of the kids’ bedtime routine. No matter the age of your kids, climb in bed with them and read. This may already be part of your bedtime ritual with your children. If so, keep at it! If not, make even 10 to 15 minutes of reading time a priority to end the day with your kids. Research shows that reading to children improves their concentration, language skills, vocabulary, imagination, and even social skills.
Choose to binge-read instead of binge-watch. Instead of watching a show before bedtime, climb in bed to read. When you are tempted to turn on Netflix, pick up a book. Take your kids to the library, and load up on free entertainment for everyone. Create a cozy reading spot with a favorite blanket or quilt for yourself, and a fluffy bean bag for the kids.
Reading allows you to travel all around the world, to experience epic historical events from a front-row seat, to learn the story behind the people you admire, and to keep your brain healthy.
Reading is not a luxury we can’t afford. It’s a hobby that’s worth cultivating.