Avid Readers and How to Become One

I’m an avid reader of cozy mysteries. Not much of a surprise, I know, but cozies are only one type of book on my bookshelves. I love to read. I can usually be found with my e-reader or a book nearby. When I shop for a new purse, I walk right by bags that are too small to hold a book. I have a Nook app on my phone so I can read while I’m waiting in line or at the dentist’s office. It’s just what I do. It’s what I’ve always done (although technology has lightened the weight on my shoulder). For me, reading is as natural as breathing.

What makes some people avid readers and others not so much? How much is nature and how much is nurture? Who or what flips the switch in a person’s brain that gets more pleasure from reading about an event than watching it on a 52-inch screen? And what if you are not much of a reader but want to become one. Is it too late?

Many studies show how reading from an early age benefits children. Taking time to read aloud with a child is never time wasted. In my family, not only did my parents read with my siblings and me, but we were free to read the many books filling our house. From a young age, I was always reading and that, in turn, led to more reading.

On the other hand, I have a friend who is not a reader. She doesn’t read for pleasure and the drone of the television is often used as background noise. She can’t understand why her 8-year-old granddaughter prefers spending her time “with her nose in a book” in a quiet corner. “The silence would drive me nuts,” she complained, “plus she isn’t doing anything.”

For those of us who read for pleasure, we know that reading is anything but “doing nothing”.

But what if someone likes to read but isn’t an avid reader? With everything clamoring for our attention throughout the day, how does someone take their reading to the next level?

After searching for ideas and reflecting on how I encouraged my own children to read, here is a list of strategies for becoming an avid reader:

1. Start with topics or genres you love. Better yet, if you like a movie, check out the book. Everything starts from a place of interest. If you hate romances, forcing yourself to read the latest bodice-ripper isn’t going to help. On the other hand, don’t dismiss a genre simply because you’ve never read one of that type. If you give something new a chance, you might find a new interest.

2. Start small. You don’t have anyone to impress. You don’t need to have bragging rights to having read all 1,225 pages of War and Peace. Keep it real.

3. Give the book a chance. I used to tell my kids to read at least 10% of a book before they decide to go on with it. For instance, if their book was 250 pages, they should read 25 pages to give it a solid chance. After that, if they were still bored or decided they didn’t like the genre, they were free to put it back on the shelf.

4. Try a series. If, on the other hand, you found enjoyment in a book that took you to another place and made you care about the characters, a series can keep you going. That’s one of the pleasures of reading cozy mysteries. It’s not simply solving a murder or two, it’s stepping into another person’s world.

5. Find a quiet place to read. When you’re starting out, stake out your special reading place where you can give your book your full attention. I have a special chair in a room with no television, but, for me, anywhere I can focus on the story will do. I have found that, as with anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes to tune out distractions. Which leads to the last suggestion,…

6. Grab reading time wherever you can. Life rarely hands you the perfect time and, especially if you are raising children, quiet time is often at a premium. I learned early on to grab the moments as they come. Do you only have 15 minutes before you have to run out the door? Or are you stuck in a slow-moving line at the post office? Instead of stewing about the wait, read a few pages. Reading, no matter where it is done, is never wasted time.

Where do you fall? Are you already an avid reader? Or do you wish you had more time to read? What works for you?

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