Monday, March 7, 2016

How Do You Fit Reading into Your Busy Life?

Good question. I am asked this often, most recently, with the request for very specific answers.

The short answer is, “Any which way I can.” If you live to read, or more accurately, live by reading, books are everywhere and strategizing how to spend time in them is as habitual as sleeping, eating, brushing teeth. I have noted that the most productive and busiest people I know are also the ones who read the most, so reading apparently doesn’t prohibit fruitfulness, but may actually increase it. This isn’t surprising when you consider that in the ingestion of stimulating ideas, the mind and heart are fed, and the more nourished the soul is, the fuller is the life of that person.

Of course, I have known people who read obsessively and do very little else, so reading alone is not the guarantee to accomplishing things. This may have much to do with which books the avid reader is consuming, but that is getting me off topic.

I don’t have a specific strategy or plan to dispense, but it is true that I read all the time. It is also true that 95% of my reading happens in short little snatches. Rather than inhibit reading comprehension and retention, I am learning the truth of what Charlotte Mason practiced: short lessons increase attention. As the busy mother of six busy children, if I had waited for the perfect quiet hour to read, I would probably still be trying to finish my first book. The elusive luxury of solitary reading most often results in sleep. I can definitely say that waiting to read before bed is probably my least effective strategy.

Like my children, my life is my learning. Like them, I have 10 to 20 books I am reading at any given time. It is no secret that variety is the spice of life, so wide reading of many kinds of books, in many diverse genres, prevents tedium. Also, like them, I do not read all those books on the same day, or in equal amounts, but read them in small portions, and read a wide and diverse variety. “Spreading the generous feast,” makes each book enticing.

Some effective methods that work for me, however, are to read a little in a difficult book early in the day, preferably before the household is up and around. I usually have three or four challenging works to read. It may take me a year to get through each one. I don’t read them every day, but do try to pick them up at least once in a week and read a little further on. I save lighter reading for late in the day to provide rest for my mind when it, as well as my body, is running down. I also read in a poetry collection of one poet every day, a little John Calvin every day, and some instructional book every day. The daily reading of the Bible is the one constant of my life.

I have books I read with my children, with my husband, with my book club, with friends. There is a book in the car and in nearly every room of the house. Waiting for the pasta water to boil, or the dryer to finish, or the children to work their math lesson is my regularly scheduled reading time.

In this way, I know I read a minimum of an hour a day, but not in one, more like four or six different books altogether. As my dear friend Robin Pack answers when people ask her how she schedules reading, “Just turn the page.” Pick up a book, read a little, and as you walk away, quickly narrate to yourself what you just read—even if it was only two paragraphs. The brain has, as Charlotte Mason says, a capacity for magical expansion. The more room you make for ideas, the more room it will have for more. And, the more ideas you have to ponder, the more intense your reading appetite becomes.

The average reader covers 50 pages in an hour. At an hour per day, total time (not just in one sitting), that will result in reading a minimum of 50-75 books a year. I shrink from boiling it down to statistics and numbers like that, because reading books isn’t to cover ground, prove a point, or chalk up accomplishments. Reading is for pleasure, growth, insight, knowledge and wisdom for living. That is why I cannot give instructions for compiling an impressive book list, but I can suggest a few practical ways books can become the food of life. The technology for how it happens eludes me, but the truth remains: reading is inseparable from living.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

8 comments:

  1. Well said! I find your suggestions very similar to my approach in reading time. I also have audios going either in my car or from the library via Overdrive on my phone, Kindle, etc.
    I tell myself that this is Mind Craft and to press forward in reading and as much as I like to read and understand its importance there still remains that discipline, by faith, to pick up and read.

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    1. Yes. I listen a lot too, in long days in the kitchen, housecleaning. It definitely takes more discipline to sit and hold a book. I have the experience of having the discipline from having books read to me and needing to learn from them all my life, but Braille is still my favorite reading medium.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Liz

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  2. I LOVE this, Liz! YES, YES, YES! :) I agree. This is very much like me, except I am guilty of TOO MUCH reading with TOO LITTLE working at times in my mothering journey. I'm TRYING to balance things better. :) I appreciate you posting this, you explained it so well! Many times, people who say they don't have time for reading, watch hours of tv a day too...we don't actually have any tv channels, so that really helps me, I think! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Liz, this was so encouraging! I, too, am finding that the older my kids get, the more I read "in snatches." I don't love reading this way--I miss the old hours sitting on the sofa, finishing a book in two or three sittings--but I find I am able to read just as many books (Indeed, last year I read more books than I had in any year since I first starting keeping track), and that I enjoy them just as much.

    Also, my LBL book package came in the mail tonight (thank you!). I eagerly look forward to opening it with my kids in the morning :)

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    1. Kimberlee,

      I do hope you enjoy the books, in snatches or batches of reading time with your young readers.

      Liz

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  4. Excellent! Yes, I think grabbing time wherever it may be found, in whatever little increments exist, is a key to not only reading but accomplishing many things while living a busy life as a mother. This is not only how I read but also find moments to sew, write, and think. Long, leisurely stretches of personal time usually aren't a reality when there are many children around, even when they are older! (Except late at night. Now that I have a lighted Kindle, I'm often guilty of staying up later than I ought to enjoy some longer reading sessions.)

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    1. Anne,

      I also often stay up too late reading, but it backfires on me as then I am too fatigued to read enough the next day.

      Liz

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