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Photo Credit: cobalt123 Flickr via Compfight cc

I’m teaching a writing class this summer at my university. It’s the first class that our Mass Media majors and minors have to take, so it introduces them to foundational media writing skills. But on the first day, I gave my standard little lecture about how to become a better writer.

Read.

I asked them who liked to read when they were in grade school. A lot of hands went up. I asked who did a lot of reading while in high school. Fewer hands stayed up. Finally I asked who still likes to read now, in college. Two of the 14 students raised their hands.

I get it — believe me, I get it. I’m sure all of those students like to read, but it’s a matter of finding the time. I love to read, but unless I make a commitment to it, that’s one of those things that falls to the wayside.

This summer I’m trying to be more intentional about my reading. I have had more time in the past two months to read, generally in the half hour or hour before bed. This is making me remember how much I enjoy reading and how quickly I can get through a book by reading a little bit every day. This is motivating me to read even more.

What I have to get better about is reading when I don’t have a half-hour or an hour. While I do prefer physical books, I like my Kindle app because I can read a book in those short moments during the day when I have only five minutes. When I have some spare moments, how often do I mindlessly click on a social media app and scroll through? Instead, what if I read a few pages? In three separate moments during the day of five minutes each, I could read about 15 pages. That’s going to add up quickly!

This is the point I tried to get my students to understand. I have observed students for many years now — I know they spend quite a bit of time scrolling through feeds or feeling the need to immediately reply when they get a text or a Snap. Delay that instinct and read instead.

Here are some other tips I collected for them:

  • Start with 5-10 minutes a day.
  • Always have a book with you, either physically or on an e-reader. Read that book anytime you would normally check social media, respond to texts, etc.—in line at the grocery store, waiting for a friend, waiting for an appointment, the three minutes before class, etc.
  • Listen to audio books in the car.
  • Keep a list of books and articles you want to read.
  • Devote a quiet place in your home to reading.
  • Keep a reading log (I use Goodreads for this).
  • Go to used book stores/thrift stores to find books.
  • Go to the library for the specific point of finding a leisure book.
  • Treat yourself while you read – coffee, tea, a snack, etc.
  • When the weather is nice, read outside!
  • Set a reasonable goal – minutes per day, books per years, etc.
  • Set up reading challenges with your friends.

How do you fit reading into your life? Do you find it a challenge to read like you used to?

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