I watched my daughter longingly. She was happily snuggled up in the middle of the day with a stack of books. Blanket wrapped, she was blissfully unaware of the real world around her, fully engrossed in the story in front of her.
I was jealous.
As parents, we hear a great deal about the importance of reading for our children. Some programs start your new bundle of joy off with a book right at the hospital and mail a new one each year until they reach a certain age. There are library programs challenging kids to read 1,000 books before kindergarten or summer reading programs to encourage kids of all ages to keep their noses in a book. There are subscription book boxes. I could list reason after reason why kids need eyes on books. But what about us?
I tried to read a novel after my second baby was born. I fell asleep by page three every single night. (Needless to say, I abandoned the book, freeing up nightstand space for a spit-up cloth and nipple cream.) There was far too much to do and reading just wasn’t a priority.
But I desperately missed it.
Soon after the abandoned book, I realized reading was important for more than my kids. Reading was important for me, too. Finding ways to make it happen has involved trial and error and a lot of grace.
Here are seven ways to make reading work for you today:
- Read small. My first mistake after my second baby was thinking I could pick up a novel, turning pages late into the night. I needed to broaden the way I defined reading if I was going to make it work. Initially, magazines became my friend. With the easily consumable sections, I could leave them open on the table and come back to them whenever I had the chance. Finding short reads you can put down easily and that are easily accessible is key. Magazines, short stories and blogs you love are great options. Don’t waste your precious time reading something you don’t love.
- Let them see you read. This is the best way to let go of the guilt associated with sitting down and reading. When your kids see you read it sets a good example of being a reader and shows that Mom and Dad can do things they love, too! Reading in front of your kids will help set them up for a lifelong love of words.
- Choose wisely. I hinted at this above by starting small. You are tired. Time is limited. Your brain is on overload and the to-do list is never done. None of this is a surprise. So you have to be very picky. Don’t waste your time reading things you don’t love. Put a lousy book down. Maybe you’ll come back to it someday when your kids are in college. Maybe you won’t. Either way, you deserve to love what you read. You don’t have time for reading that is less than great!
- Make it a choice. This is different than just choosing wisely. This is about being intentional with your time. Giving up even 10 minutes of social media scrolling gives you 10 minutes with words that can feed your soul. I know mindless feels easier, but it’s like fast food – it won’t fill you up. Be intentional about how you use your time.
- Set a goal. Sometimes we need a concrete goal to make something happen. Set a goal to read a certain number of books or for a certain amount of time each day. Make a list of books you’ve read this year. Make a To Be Read list. (Goodreads.com is a great way to do both of these.) Make a sticker chart for your reading. Sometimes we all need a gold star. See how you can motivate yourself.
- Stay on topic. If you’re struggling with making the time, start by choosing a parenting book. You can justify it as helping you raise your little people. The only warning with this is not to stay in parenting books forever. Being a mom or dad is a huge part of who you are, and it will forever define you, but it is not the only part. Think of this as a baby step back to reading for pleasure.
- Bring it with you. Keep a book in the car. Or your purse. Or the diaper bag. Or on your phone. It doesn’t matter what it is or where you are, as long as it travels with you. Take advantage of those five minutes at preschool pickup or the 10 minutes in the waiting room. Anthologies and small gift/inspirational-style books work well for reclaiming these lost minutes.
You can find ways to make reading part of your life, even with little ones keeping you busy. Start with one thing and grow from there.