Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Long List of Small Ways I Cultivate a Reading Life

 Books are awesome. I’m sharing how I hack my time & energy to read as much as I can.

These are true to the season of life and motherhood I’m in. Take what you want and leave the rest. I’ve got my own set of circumstances, and you are likely in a very different boat.

And if you are in the same boat, what are you doing without a life jacket? And row faster, won’t you?!!!

1. I waterfall my reading. I read serious, thought-provoking material in the morning, and it goes downhill from there. By the time I crawl into bed it better be so fluffy I can float on it right to sleep.

2. I keep my “to read” list on my phone on the Reminders app. By some sort of magic, it helps me get more books in my hands. It’s the same list app (as simple as they come) that I share with Paul for groceries (swear by it). The list is long, but I get to scroll through it every once in a while and knock one off.

3. I hook our chapter book read aloud time to an absolute in our day. Thomas and I have kept true to our read aloud time every day for over two years. We are more flexible on the weekend of course, but the week days go the same way every. single. day. Naps start for the twins. Then we read our chapter book.

4. I set a timer for my personal reading. Mid-day I’m like a piece of toast discovered six hours past its prime. Lately, I’ve been refueling by giving myself 20 minutes to read which is enough to make headway on a book but not so long that it’s not a realistic option for my day. It’s amazing what just a small chunk of focused reading does to clear my brain and lift my spirits back up. It’s incredible. 

5. I take pause before picking my next read. I’ve learned not to set up myself for failure. The older I get, the more I really think about what mood I’m in (oh, the feels) and what I need right now. I like a variety and try to switch things up, so that reading always brings me new flavors. Same rule goes for picking our chapter books too. In the pause, I read Amazon book reviews. Preferably with glass of wine in my hand. 

6. Books are the one thing I buy randomly for the kids. There is no other type of toy or treat we just give to the kids. I would never say, “surprise! I bought you Legos!” But I do it as much as I can afford to with books. I’m generally opposed to rewards, but if I buy one it’s probably going to be a book. 

7. I go solo to the library every other Saturday to pick up books.  I max out our card. First, I check the new books and award contestant books. Next, I grab around 3 books for each subject for school: science, math, history, art, and poetry to use for our morning time loop. Then, I grab level readers since Thomas needs a few of those to build up fluency. Last, I scan for bindings that have award or runner-up labels. Last, I judge a lot of books by their cover and fill up the rest of the bags. 

8. I keep a Goodreads account for Thomas. I’ve kept it up (admittedly missed a few books last year) since he turned 4. Yes, we had to sign him up for an email, but I can switch from my account to his no problem on my computer.  I let him rate books.  He gets to tell me what he’s interested in reading. It’s really fun. It’s motivating for him to see all we’ve read, and now he's just begun reading chapter books on his own so I'm really excited for him to log his reads. 

9. I keep a Goodreads account for myself. Let’s be friends.  :)

10. I listen to podcasts that encourage me to read.  Read Aloud Revival and What Should I Read Next? are my two favorites right now.  (Also, I'm a Modern Mrs. Darcy lifer.)

11. I read books that encourage me to read more. I’m due for a reread of The Read Aloud Handbook. 

12. I share what I read with Thomas. We hear so much about investing in what our children read, but I want Thomas to join in my world a bit too. I’ve read aloud from or summarized so many books that I’ve read. He sees me reading and asks me about my book. He asks me to read it to him, and I usually do. 

This seems very normal to me. My mom shared snippets of her books, and her thoughts about what she was reading, all the time growing up. I still treasure those moments to this day. She was sharing her enthusiasm for reading, for learning, and thought it natural to include us too and I really love that she did.

13. We laugh.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously.  The “me balls” from Only Ivan. The silly dreams in The BFG. The creepy figures in The Wizard of Oz. The Indian’s curt demands from The Indian in the Cupboard.  The ridiculous anecdotes of the narrator in the Lemony Snicket series. I have oodles of times Thomas and I have shared laughs over books. I have so many reasons I think reading is of serious importance, but it’s just fun too.  A lot of fun. Or it’s sad. And we go there too. We let ourselves feel.  Thomas made an invisible threat to the bully in Hoot and I had to encourage him to feel a little less…  

14. We keep our library books in the same place. This should encourage more reading, right? 

15. I’m honest with Thomas. I don’t sugar coat. Sometimes, I think a book is lame and say so. Sometimes, I adore a book and I say that too. Sometimes, I’m still trying to figure a book out so I say that.  I let him be honest too. We don’t have to love all books, but a lot of books are worth the try and usually make good conversation anyway. 

16. I ask people about books they are reading or for their favorites.  Oh to be connected to others through the books we read. I absolutely love it! If I read a book I almost always have a trail buddy--someone I can talk to about that book (or whom has already talked to me about the book.)

17. I make a plan. I have a number of books I’ve already planned on reading this year, so I’ll switch between reading those I’ve planned on and those that I feel like and also those that come in from the library (because I always have an ongoing hold list and they come in at pretty random times). Here’s an example. It’s the list of books I wanted to, give or take a few, get around to this school year. We are doing pretty well. (The same can’t be said for my own reading.)

18. I give classics a try. There’s a good reason everyone else has read it. It might not end up one of my favorites, but I want to know the secret too. From the classics I’ve finally caught up with in the past few years, it’s totally worth the late read. 

19. I keep an Amazon wish list just for books. 

20. Rule of two. I always have one non-fiction book going and one fiction book going. I might have an additional book beyond that, but I definitely have those first two.  

21. I take tons of screen shots.  I screen shot Instagram book recs all the time. Then when I clean out my photos, I add those books to my “to read” list or put them on hold right away. I highly recommend! 

I just looked on my phone. Here's the most recent book rec screen shot I took. 

And here are a few things I would love to start:

1Keeping a commonplace book — Do you have one? Where do I start?

2. Thomas keeping a record of his pages read — Too soon maybe. 

3. Sharing recommendations here or on Instagram (but it does feel a little overwhelming because there are so many terrific books)

4. Putting more books on hold for the kids so I can utilize the drive through. 

5. A book club! I’m wondering if this matters enough to me that I’m ready to make it happen. Possibly. 

Do you have tricks and tips for cultivating a reading life? How do you make it happen? 


  1. This is good. So good! Sharing on fb - I especially love the idea of "waterfalling" - my brain is fried by evening also, and I can't bring myself to read any of my weightier books at that point!

    And books as anytime gifts - yes :)

    1. Thanks so much, Rosie! Oh me and my FB absence. So weird. :)

      And yes, I've faced now that if I'm ever going to read Les Mis this year, it will have to be that I wake up and read it 1st thing in the morning. Because homeschool and twin care in between....brain. fried.

  2. You should share more about a commonplace book! I kinda get the idea but a post on that would be super fun!

    1. Maybe I can do a round-up of what other bloggers have shared. I have an idea of how I would like to do one, but then I'm also really curious how they are "supposed" to look. I'll give myself a walk about the Internet for some commonplace explanation & share soon!

  3. Thank you for the great ideas! I'm definitely going to implement some of them. And I highly recommend starting a book club! I co-founded one with a friend a year ago and it is what revived my love of reading after burnout during the college years. I started with one book a month and soon found that reading begets reading and now I'm hooked :)

    1. Oh man, that's awesome! Right now I have texting book clubs.... where I just annoy friends and family with my thoughts about what I'm reading. ;)

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  5. I might possibly be interested in a book club...

    1. You would be so much fun to be in a book club with!