I’m an adult, I have two children under five years old, and I read a lot. If you’re an adult and you read a lot, you probably know this scenario:
I’m talking about something I just read (a novel, a parenting book, an article on spider bite treatments), when someone says, “How do you find the time to read?” Or what’s an even more perplexing question: “Where do you find time to read?” People don’t really think I’m pulling off couch cushions, looking for time like lost change? Wandering down the aisle at the supermarket, asking, “Where do you keep the sands of time?”
I usually respond with a shrug and a line like “I don’t watch any TV” (true) or “I spend no time on home decorating” (semi-true) or “I neglect my children” (almost entirely false).
But what I really want to say is “not reading is not an option for me.” I know this to be true because I have felt guilty enough about the time I spend reading to try to give fiction up. I have tried this three times in my adult life and the same things always follow: insomnia, inability to relax, sluggish thought process, irritability, a tendency to over analyze things, and a general loss of will to live. Yes, I’m exaggerating. But I have found it impossible for my brain to thrive without books.
It’s like what Bianca says in The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown when a guy asks her how she finds time to read a few hundred books a year. “[Bianca] narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her. Because I don’t spend hours flipping through cable complaining there’s nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads?… Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train, eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring myself in available reflective surfaces? I am reading!” Later, when describing why she broke up with him, she says, “He was not a reader. And that is the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put.”
That ‘s really the answer I want to give. The time is already there. You don’t need to find it, you need to use it. Use it to read, if reading is what you want to do more of! When I became a mom, I didn’t give up reading; I gave up sleep and kept the books.
But I think people who ask me when I fit reading into my schedule would like a different sort of answer. To that end, here are a few ideas:
- Read alongside your children. If you have small children like me, you’re at a perfect time in their lives to instill in them a love of reading. Read to them. Read your own book while they read/look at picture books. Institute a quiet time that encourages reading. This time in our home has become an infusion of peace and rest in our busy bee days. While my 2-year-old naps in the afternoon, my 4-year-old usually sits on her bed and looks through a stack of library books or a thick book of fairy tales, and I lie down on my book and read for a few minutes.
- Read on your lunch break. When I worked an office job, I would regularly read while I ate lunch. Several of my co-workers did the same. My husband often does this on lunch breaks. It’s a great way to stay sharp and take a break at the same time.
- Read on the treadmill. Or exercise bike or stair climber. If you’re doing light cardio work outs anyway, you already have a perfect opportunity to read. Seriously, it’s not as hard as it sounds. This is how I read for pleasure and stayed (mostly) fit and graduated from college at the same time. I wish I had a treadmill now so I could read more…
- Go to bed early. With a book of course. I pretty much can’t fall asleep without reading a novel. I save my nonfiction for early mornings, which leads to…
- Get up early. Going to bed early enables me to get up early and read whatever nonfiction I’m focusing on at the time. I’m more energized for the day if my thoughts start going before the dishes and laundry start/continue to pile up.
- Read out loud with your spouse. Some of you scratched this one off the list before you finished reading the sentence. But for those of you who find this idea at least slightly appealing, I’d encourage you to give it a try. Our premarital counselor actually suggested this to us. See, it’s legit. Maybe pick something light and adventurous. My husband and I had a lot of fun with the Harry Potter books. We read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea on our honeymoon. (But beware of something that requires a heavy accent, like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, that type of thing). Turning your imaginations into images from the same words is an even better experience than watching the same movie. And I’m not trying to sound all existential or anything. Just try it and you’ll see what I mean.
- Always keep a book with you. Oil changes, traffic, dentist appointments explained here, carpool lines, waiting for people late to appointments and meetings, waiting for your spouse to come out of the public restroom…these things happen and you just need to have a book along with you. “Waste not the time that could be spent reading!” is the motto of book lovers everywhere.
- Listen to an audiobook. This one is the obvious suggestion that you probably don’t need me to make. I’m sure you can already think of a time when you’re busy with your hands and not your brain–driving, folding clothes, washing dishes, entering data, pounding the pavement, what have you. Give your brain something to do and feel that sense of accomplishment that multitasking and actually finishing a book can bring.
I currently use or have used in the past all these ways to turn regular time into reading time. All of us are busy in one way or another. But I truly believe reading a good book is not a waste of time, but a way to enrich your life. If you’re reading this, you probably already agree. =)
If you need some ideas on what to read, check out the reviews category on the left of the screen!