Friday, November 10, 2023

A few years back, I was going through a tough time. A business that I poured my heart and sweat into was struggling, and I was discouraged. I felt like everything I worked so hard for was amounting to nothing. I felt lost. 

A friend in the States knew what was going on. One day, when we talked on the phone, she pulled out a picture book called “You’re Here for a Reason” by Nancy Tillman. She read it to me as though I was a child who didn’t understand my value. I was overcome with emotion. When I felt I had nothing left, it was just what I needed to roll my sleeves back up and get back on my feet. 

Books can inspire others, and they can motivate us. The incredible thing about reading is you are tapping into the best and brightest insights of countless people in your generation and for centuries previous. It’s staggering when you consider how we can go online and tap into what Einstein spent his entire life discovering. And that is only one topic! Imagine how Einstein would have felt had he access to what we have today!

Why Do Many Adults Stop Reading?

It’s a startling statistic that approximately 42% of North Americans don’t pick up a book after completing post-secondary education. For many, the transition from a structured academic environment to the busy world of adulthood can make reading a challenging endeavor. If you were like me, I was so tired of the books I was asked to read in college that I felt just put off reading altogether. Unlike some people who take to reading like a duck to water, reading had never been easy for me to begin with. 

There are a lot of other reasons why so many of us stop: 

1. Stimulating Technology:

In an era of smartphones and constant connectivity, technology provides instant gratification. When I’m tired in the evenings, I don’t feel I have the energy to learn something new or even to work at deciphering words on a page. I’ve run hard all day and often feel like a book is not my way to unwind. Many of us prefer to be entertained rather than invest time in reading. In a world filled with options, we may opt for passive forms of entertainment instead. Screen time bombards our senses with vivid colors and fast-paced action. The brain processes information differently when reading, as it must imagine and create mental images, which can feel like a less exciting experience. There is a reason “doom-scrolling” is a real thing! So many of us opt for movies or Facebook Shorts because they require less time and effort. If you have a TV in your bedroom, you’re even more likely to give up reading. Yetta and I have always had a policy of not having screens in our room as we find it blocks intimacy. 

2. Busyness:

Modern life is filled with many activities and commitments, and it may feel extra challenging for those playing full out in life. Our schedules overflow with work-related tasks, family responsibilities, and social engagements, making it increasingly challenging to carve out dedicated time for reading. The demands can feel relentless, leaving us perpetually overscheduled and overwhelmed. We’re less likely to schedule reading when our calendars are full. And books don’t just magically fall into our laps!

3. Confusion in Choosing Books:

Reading a book is a time investment, particularly if you are an arduous reader! Selecting the right book can feel daunting. Many potential readers struggle with choosing books that genuinely interest them.

Making Reading Fun Again!

There are countless ways to infuse joy and delight into the reading process. These tips and tricks can help you discover what speaks to your heart and let it light up your daily routine. 

1. Setting a Purpose:

Clarifying your purpose before diving into a book will help you get the most out of the experience. Are you looking for learning, relaxation, or a thrilling escape? By understanding your intentions, you can pick books that align with your goals, making your reading purposeful. It’s all about enhancing your journey by knowing where you want to go. Yetta and I create a reading list in advance, laying out what books we want to read over the course of each year. It motivates us because we know that when we finish one book, another great one is already lined up. It gives us something to look forward to and helps us push through dry spots. 

2. Choosing Your Reading Environment:

Choose a comfortable and inviting location to read, such as a cozy chair or nook in your home. A dedicated reading space can make the experience more enjoyable. Yetta and I have recliners in our spiritual room where we often put our feet up, Yetta with her cup of tea. The chairs are near a large window so we can overlook our property and see the creek beyond. The sunlight is warm and inviting. 

3. Blending Activities:

Yetta finds it extremely helpful to combine reading with other activities. She listens to audiobooks while swimming or doing household chores. It can make the mundane feel more enjoyable, partially because it is interesting and partly because Yetta loves feeling like she’s accomplishing more than one thing at a time! When she is alone in the house, if I walk in the door, the first thing I hear is an audiobook because she almost always has one on. My best time to listen to books is in the car on my way to appointments. Joe Stumpf used to encourage us to use our cars as “our university on wheels!”

4. Ask for Recommendations:

Asking others for their recommendations can relieve the pressure of selecting a book and help you tap into a community of readers. A friend of mine, Suzanne, often recommends books to us that she’s read. The fun part is we can discuss them together. She’ll share her insights, I’ll share mine, and we’ll learn from each other. It opens more doors to understanding and gives us something enjoyable to discuss. 

5. Book Club: Joining a book club builds a sense of camaraderie with a small community of readers. The conversation about the material is great, and I love that it gives me a reason to stay engaged with the material. The deadlines help me as well! Most book club timelines follow a guideline of 15 minutes of reading a day to keep up with the group. I love this because it keeps me accountable to schedule the time and read even when I don’t feel like it. 

Retain, Reframe, Recall

Reading is not just about consuming content; it’s about retaining, reframing, and recalling the information. You take the knowledge, the inspiration, and the ideas you’ve gleaned from your reading, and you use them as tools that shape your life. If you’re reading a novel, you may be inspired by the way a character treats others in the book, the person’s character, or their approach to obstacles they face. Or, if you read a self-help book, you’ll find principles and insights to apply to your daily life. These new perspectives and solutions shape how you think, feel, and behave. Here are a few strategies to make the most of your reading experience:

1. Repetition:

Rereading not only solidifies your understanding but also helps you retain the knowledge. It’s like repeating a song until you know every word. As you revisit the material, it becomes a more integral part of your memory. Andy Andrews, a famous author, tears certain pages out of books as he reads. He stuffs them in his pocket and, throughout the day, rereads them when he’s waiting in a lineup or has a moment to spare. 

2. Trashing the Book:

Don’t be afraid to highlight, underline, or write notes in your book. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a brain specialist, adds that circling and boxing passages help you retain information even better than just underlying and highlighting it. It engages just that much more with the material to internalize it. Personalizing the book enables you to engage more deeply with its content. Yetta writes key points and their page numbers in the cover of the book. That way, when she revisits the content, she only has to look at the main ideas that spoke to her rather than rereading the whole thing. 

3. Communication:

Discuss the book with others who have read it. Or share the content with a willing listening ear. The key is a willing listening ear! Sharing insights, ideas, and interpretations can deepen your understanding and offer fresh perspectives as they provide their insight. Studies show that the best way to retain information increases at each stage: 1. Listening to or reading the information. 2. Repeating the information aloud. 3. Teaching it to others. 

Take advantage of the opportunity to join the upcoming book club starting on November 23, 2023, with Yetta and me! You can enter a fantastic community of readers on Zoom as we explore Diana Kokoszka’s newly released book, Becoming More. Email to join the community and receive details about the club. Becoming More will be a transformative journey, and reading it together will make the experience even more exciting.