According to The Pew Research Center:
- Nearly a quarter of American adults have not read a single book in the past year.
- The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.
- In 1978, 42 percent of adults had read 11 books or more in the past year; today just 28 percent hit the 11 mark.
- The average 18-to-29 year old finishes nine per year, compared to 13 among older American.
But there’s some good news too:
The percentage of young folks reading for pleasure stopped declining. Last year, the NEA found that 52 percent of 18-24 year-olds had read a book outside of work or school, the same as in the pre-Facebook days of 2002. If book culture were in terminal decline, this is the demographic where you’d expect it to be fading fastest. Perhaps the worst of the fall is over.
I struggle to find time to read. Yes, I read plenty during working hours for lectures, sermons, etc, but in terms of reading books of choice in my leisure time, I confess I often go to bed disappointed in my use of the evening hours. It’s so much easier just to tap around on the iPad or read blogs. So here are a few strategies I’ve recently been trying to follow to increase my reading.
Same Time and Place
Set aside 30 minutes a day when and where you can be guaranteed that you will not be interrupted. Try to make it the same place and the same time every day and get agreement from everyone in your household to guard that time for you. And turn off your phone notifications. When you get used to that rare and wonderful feeling of reading for 30 uninterrupted minutes, up it to 45, then an hour. You’ll soon be completing a book every 7-10 days.
Count the Pages
I know, this probably sounds ridiculous, and maybe it’s a man thing (everything’s got to be a competition), but I do find I read more when I count and record the number of pages I read in my 30 minutes. Somehow it stops me reading at half-speed and also improves my concentration. Put an index card in the book and record the pages for each 30 mins.
Read Paragraphs Not Pages
Break each page into paragraphs and count each read paragraph as an achievement. Maybe it’s social media but I find I don’t have the same concentration span that I used to. I can read a page and yet realize I haven’t taken in a thing. But if I focus on paragraphs, I find that I can concentrate much better on the smaller chunks, and my reading speed actually improves as I build momentum as each paragraph is conquered (it’s the man thing again).
Books are brilliantly marketed today, making it more and more difficult to know what books to buy or not. They all “look” so good. Few read as good as they look. I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve stopped reading after a chapter or two. I don’t feel under any obligation to force myself to read badly written, poorly thought out, and pale imitation books just because I bought them. That would be double stupidity – wasting my money AND my time. If you make yourself read a book you are not enjoying, you will slow down, find excuses to fill your 30 minutes with better things, and eventually give up.
Start the Empty Shelf Challenge
I’m still trying to find an empty shelf, but I think Jon Acuff’s Empty Shelf Challenge is a great idea to motivate a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Not very helpful for Kindle readers unless you follow his suggestion of printing out a copies of the front covers and maybe posting them on a wall. Which brings me to…
Read Paper Books
I love technology, but I must confess that despite trying again and again and again to read books on a Kindle, I hardly ever finish books on it. I don’t have the motivation of seeing how far I’m physically through the book, and I am way to easily distracted by the other possible books on my Kindle or other options on my iPad. Kindle books are cheaper, but you lose more than you gain.
Read with Your Kids
This will probably only work for those of us with older children, but this January I agreed with my two teenage sons that I would buy each of them a book a month from Amazon. They don’t have a free choice, as we make the selections together. The main criteria are that the books would help them grow spiritually, vocationally, or help prepare them for life in some way. As they each have to read the other’s choice as well, I hope they and I will have read 24 books in the year, with lots of discussion among us along the way. FYI, the first two books they chose were Sam Walton: Made in America (one wants to go into business), and How to Become a Straight A Student (we can but dream).
Anyone got any other ideas?