How to become a lifelong reader by starting small
or very small
We have all been told, from a very young age, that reading books are good for you in every way. From teachers to parents to friends who seem to enjoy reading more than those who enjoy playing PlayStation. And you have probably given it a try, oh, sorry, not “a try”, it’s “tries”, multiple times, and just couldn’t seem to have the desire to read as much, even though you kind of like the idea of becoming a reader. This paper walks readers through the steps to becoming a lifelong reader without feeling overwhelmed.
The first step is to pick a book, any kind of book, that you think you will like. There are thousands of book lists out there, and it can be overwhelming for starters to see all these novels and nonfictions and historical books and on and on and on, so you don’t have to bother reading books from the lists like “Books That Can Change Your Life” or “Books You Need to Read Before You Die”, although they can be great. The reason why this is important is that people enjoy what they like. You are better off reading about a topic that you are interested in. If you find yourself wondering about how the human mind works, then pick one of the psychology books, or if you want to read to escape and want your mind to wander, then pick a novel. Similarly, maybe you want to get better at something, say, personal finance. There are personal finance books that are enjoyable too. So, any book goes, get Fifty Shades of Grey if that’s what you like, no judgments.
The second step is to read the first chapter or 10–20 pages and decide if you want to continue. You might find skimming, also known as “pre-reading”, which means “reading before reading” helpful too. Look at the titles of chapters and quotes or random pages. Reading a book you don’t particularly enjoy results in the perception of unattractiveness of the habit, and you don’t want that. There should be no weird feelings if you leave a book unfinished. Not everyone liked The Beatles, not everyone’s going to like The Alchemist. If you are spending hours trying to finish a book that feels like a chore, you are probably doing it wrong. You are more likely to read more of a book you enjoy. Plus, you can continue where you left off whenever you want. This is especially true if you are reading on your laptop or kindle.
The next point that is important to note is that habit needs to be easy if you want it to stick. Reading 10–20 pages a day is good enough. In fact, 10 pages every day makes 3,650 pages a year, which can be around 15–20 books. And we can all agree that reading 15 books is better than reading 0 books. If that feels a lot, no need to worry, set a goal for yourself to read 1 page a day or 2 minutes. Downscaling your habits will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, we are going to talk about that in a minute. Likewise, the presence of the book you are reading needs to be obvious in the environment you are in. Put the book on your desk, or add the app you are using on your device to the Quick Access section so that you pick up the book more often than you would through willpower. This is because we tend to go towards objects around us that are visible, in the same way we go for a beer if it’s on the counter instead of water placed by the shelf. The more barriers you have, the more you are likely to avoid or neglect reading. And if you are one of those people who have a crazy busy lifestyle, reading a book first thing in the morning might do the trick for you. Or you can schedule a reading time for however minutes. Also, leaving your phone in another room or simply in your bag will help you read undistracted, or if you are using your phone to read, you can put it on “Do Not Disturb” mode. Of course, reading from a paperback or a separate device that you do not receive most of your notifications will be ideal. That way, you are solving the problem of things that may get in the way of your reading, or the temptations to do something else.
Making reading satisfying is just as important. If reading is something you don’t particularly enjoy, giving yourself an immediate reward after or during your reading time will make you more likely to repeat that action in the following days. So make yourself a coffee to drink while you read or go to that café or park you like to read. Get creative in the environment of your reading if you have to, maybe your favorite couch is the place you should read, or it may be your desk. Continue reading this way until reading itself is the reward for you. Once the act of reading is the reward, then the rest is easy, it will come very naturally to you.
Finally, you can join a culture of readers, whether it be online or with people you see at the library or a bookstore. Or simply just talk about the book you are reading to a friend. To establish a reading habit, perhaps the most important thing is a metaphor called “identity change”. Identity Change is the deepest layer of behavior change. In this case, saying “I want to read a book” to yourself might change the outcome in the short term, however, “I want to become a reader” will be everlasting. As you join a group of readers and join discussions about books online, an “I am a reader” thought becomes formed in your head. And this is the phenomenon that leads to lifelong reading because you are a reader, that’s what readers do. Goodreads.com among countless other websites is a good start. Peace out, reader.