Reading is a part of my daily life–something I am often thinking about. While other people are spending time on Youtube, playing video games or doing some other type of keeping up with the Joneses, I’m usually taking care of my reading life and all that entails. I spend probably 1-2 hours day either reading or listening to stories and another hour a week tracking what I”m doing with books.. I am not a speed reader and I don’t do book- a-day challenges, but I read about 120 books a year, on average now. Its something I look forward to doing as a way for me to unplug from a hectic day.
But it wasn’t always that way. I’m happy to report that I’ve rediscovered the passion I have for it. I read a lot as a youngster for many of the same reasons I do now. but I also had fewer demands on my time and there wasn’t technology or 24-7 TV. Looking back, my reading life dwindled slowly as my adult life took over. Going to college, getting a job, getting married and having kids all impacted how much time there was for pleasure reading. I did read, but it was random and not any type of priority compared with taking care of my family and my students.
Anyway, several years ago, two things happened. One, I was feeling really burned out with my job as a special education teacher–I was at a point of quitting. I recognized that if I was going to keep teaching, I was going to have to make some changes. I realized that if this was going to be it, I was going to call it done, I didn’t have anything to lose by doing some very different things. I participated in a teacher-writers group through the National Writing Project..Through working with this group of educators, I realized that being happier at my job was something that was totally up to me to fix. I had way more power to control what my teaching life looked life than I previously thought.
During that time of deep thinking, I started questioning many things. One of them was reading expectations at my own school vs my kid’s school. My kids were expected to read 10 books a quarter. That seemed like a lot with all the other homework demands they had. Our own reading expectations for students were 3 books or 600 pages per quarter. Kids were struggling with that at times. Were 10 books a quarter, or 40 books a year even close to being a reasonable goal for students?
So I decided I was going to take the challenge myself. I didn’t know it then but doing so set me on the path to changing my reading life. I publicly announced to students that year I was going to read 40 books that school year and posted what I read behind my desk so kids could see my progress or lack thereof. I did a lot of reflecting as I went through the challenge. What started as a challenge I never expected to keep, ended up being the thing I needed to get my reading mojo back. I actually read 69 books that year.
The following year, I set my goal for 100 books, and that has been my book goal each year since that time. I enjoy meeting the goal of course but what’s even better is the fact that I have reclaimed a part of my identity that I didn’t even realize that I had given up. I am a reader. I can truly be a model and a coach for students who want to be better readers. A true coach. One who loves to read and talks about her reading life often. Here are some major things I learned about how I read:
- I read many books at the same time I usually have an audiobook for the car, several books that I am reading with kids at school, one or two from the library(50% are holds), and 1 or 2 free choices from the kindle. Holds are the hardest to deal with because they come when they come. Then I have to decide, can I try to finish them in the due date or do I have too much going on? Overall though, I don’t get too stressed out about the number of books on the list. I just eventually make my way through them all. For the hold books, I really want to read/listen to, I just pause on books I own to focus on those with due dates.
- I set goals and challenges for myself but they don’t have very much structure. Read 100-120 books this year. Make a dent in the Kindle books. I found that when I was more specific like read 10 books per month I was more focused on finishing and stressing out over whether I would then on simply reading and enjoying. Knowing this about myself has helped me talk with students about the fact that there are many ways to reach a goal. Interestingly it might turn out that I read about 10-12 books every month or sometimes more, but I do that because I want to, not because I have to.
- I keep track of the books I read. I set my big airy book goal through Goodreads. This is how I prove that I’ve read to reach my goal. Plus I belong to two different book groups, a middle grade and a YA one. I get great recommendations, and sometimes get to read authors books who also belong. It’s kind of a cool way to connect about books. One thing Goodreads doesn’t do though is to document monthly. For that, I do a list on a google doc. Here I can see a number of books, patterns of reading. Because I feel like the number of books I read is growing at a fast rate, I’m pretty certain that I will forget something I’ve read. I want to track for both me and for kids when they are looking for book recommendations.
- I rarely abandon a book once I start, even if I don’t absolutely love it. To be honest, I have only had maybe a handful of books I really hated and stopped reading. I am getting better at taking this part of my nature into account and at letting a book go if I really don’t like it or if I really don’t have time for it right now.
I talk about how I read with kids and we ask questions of them so they can figure out how they read. We don’t all read the same way and that’s okay. My habits are my own, neither good nor bad. They just are what they are. When it comes to reading, do it your own way. We are all capable of having our own reading mojo. So go out there, find a book you love, find a comfy spot and sink in!