According to a 2018 study by PEW Research Center, 24 percent of American adults reported that they haven’t read one book (or even “part of a book”) in the previous year. That’s one in every four Americans.
This is unfortunate, since from a scientific standpoint readers make more money, display more civic-mindedness, have larger vocabularies, and can communicate more effectively. One magazine article even asserted that readers are “the best people to fall in love with.”
A familiar adage puts it this way: “Readers are leaders and leaders are readers.” Warren Buffet, for example, reads 500-plus pages every day and estimates he spends “as much as 80 percent of his day reading.” Melinda Gates “rarely leaves home without a book.” Barack Obama has divulged that he reads for “at least an hour” every night. The late Barbara Bush would “listen to audiobooks for hours every day.”
If that’s not enough to compel you to read more, consider a 2016 study in the journal Social Science & Medicine, which linked reading to a longer life: “Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.”
To top it all off, reading is a grand adventure. A book can be a time machine, a plane ticket, or tuition to an elite academy.
The question for most people is this: How can I fit reading into my already full life?
Last year, I read more than 50 books (this year my goal is to hit 75, which is approximately 1.44 books per week or close to six books per month).
As a business owner, writer and mother of four children (ages 1, 6, 9 and 11), I’m happy to share some of my best practices for adding books to your week. It's actually much easier and more doable than you might think.
Read to your kids
Reading chapter books aloud to your children is a terrific way to bolster your own reading list, while making memories that will last a lifetime. Find a fun series. Use voices. Cuddle under blankets. Shared books lead to the very best discussions about life, love and how to persevere through hard times.
Read in front of your kids
Don’t feel guilty about reading in front of your kids, even in the middle of the day. Obviously, you’ll need to ensure that younger children are safe, but it’s good for kids to see that their parents enjoy reading. If you asked my kids about my hobbies, they would be able to name them lickety-split and reading would be near the top of the list.
Give up on books
Let’s say you pick up a book because it has hundreds of five-star ratings. You start reading it, but are less than impressed. What happens next? Typically, the book will sit on your nightstand, taunting you with “shoulds.” Don’t let that happen to you. Toss it. There are too many wonderful books in the world to get derailed by one that doesn’t capture your interests.
Set a goal
Each year, I set a reading goal on Goodreads. When I finish a book, I write a two- to three-sentence review. At the end of the year, goodreads will put together a fun infographic of YOUR reading year - including the number of pages you read and what genres of books you read most frequently.
Read with your ears
Many intelligent and action-oriented people (including my husband) use audiobooks as their preferred way of checking books off their list. Audiobooks are widely available at your local library and allow you to drive to work, do laundry, or make dinner while learning something new or being whisked away on a fictional adventure.
Turn off the TV
Groucho Marx and I have this in common: He humorously stated, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Newly released 2018 data from Nielsen revealed that Americans 2 years and older spend four hours and sixteen minutes per day watching TV. Turn off the screen and you may find 250+ more minutes to spare in your day.
Sleep on it
Two tips that I can almost guarantee will help you read more: (1) Keep a book on your nightstand. (2) Don’t bring your phone into your bedroom at night. These two tips work hand in hand. Without your phone, you’ll be far more likely to pick up a book. Erasmus knew what he was saying when he quipped, “Before you sleep, read something that is exquisite, and worth remembering.” Exquisite things are generally not found on Facebook.
Horace Mann gives excellent advice on this topic: “Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence.” A little reading every day trumps grand notions and stacks gathering dust. With just a few changes in your habits, you can add more reading into your life.
* This article also appeared in the August 2018 edition of "The Costco Connection" (the print magazine with the largest circulation in the United States).