As a child, before the age of smartphones, I was a voracious reader. I would marathon through books and often find myself reading more than one book at a time. My library card was continually maxed and my parents took me on frequent trips to Barnes and Noble.
Every story became a part of me; I would love the characters written by an author that came to life in my imagination. I would constantly reread the same books because I missed the characters and the worlds they lived in. I was in the generation of children that grew up on Harry Potter, attending midnight releases every few years in full costume and would finish the newly-released book the very same night. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was being made into films and I eagerly read Tolkien’s classics, along with Dahl, Meyers, Levine, Nimmo, and Jacques.
I would power through a series like it was my job; any novel I was alone with for a few hours was permanently etched into my memory.
Then I went to college. Working a part-time job, staying committed to sports, a boyfriend, family, and a mountain of school work that required hours of reading daily burnt out my love of reading. There was no time for pleasure reading when my only free time was so scarce. My one book a week tradition seemed to have diminished to about a book a year.
After college, I had lost the habit of reading and new habits were formed. I worked full time and met my husband and life was filled with love; I didn’t miss reading. A few years later, we had our first daughter, and life was filled with even more love and joy.
Of course with the beautiful baby came the typical new mom anxiety and worry, and to try and learn everything about being a good mother I picked up a book on raising kids. One of the key points in all the different books I read seemed to mention how developmentally important it was to read to your children. So I bought a few board book classics like Good Night Moon and we read a few books at bedtime.
When we visited family in Florida, I proudly showed off my beautiful and bright baby. My family in Florida are all teachers. While we were visiting, they had talked about how important reading was for kids and how they used to have a whole room full of books they would read to my cousins. After our trip, I made more of an effort to read to my daughter. We went to storytime at the library and checked out a small stack of books every week. Our daughter was thrilled by books and would happily listen, engaged by all the colorful pictures.
Reading became a habit we looked forward to not just at bedtime, but throughout the day.
Two years later, our son was born and we continued our new tradition with him. Our small library had begun to grow and we now had a bookshelf that was near full. Today, we have five overly full bookshelves that get cycled through constantly on top of weekly library books. My children have an amazing appetite for books with their magical stories, rich language and lovely pictures. I’m constantly wowed by how many of the books we read they have retained. They have a vocabulary that surpasses most children their ages and they can’t get enough of reading.
I have read several books now on the importance of reading to children. Somewhere early on, I remember seeing it was important to read at least 15 minutes to your child daily, but now we were reading at least an hour a day. Along with toys strewn across our house, we have piles of books on the floor, table, and if you’re not careful when you sit down on the couch, there’s a good chance you will sit on a book or two.
I was proud of my young readers and happy that they had such a love of reading. I was reading hundreds of books again, yet the majority of the books I was reading were children’s books or books about raising kids. I of course enjoyed the parenting books and read through them quickly, recommending them to friends. However, it wasn’t until very recently I realized I was still not reading for pleasure like I used to when I was a child. Granted today I have more responsibilities than when I was a carefree kid, but how much of my time was wasted on endless and mindless scrolling?
I decided to make the change and get back to my old habit, or at least some form of it.
On our next trip to the library, I asked our kind librarian for a recommendation on a popular book for adults. I laughed embarrassedly about how I could tell you just about all the children’s books that were out today but had no clue what I actually liked to read anymore. She handed me a book she said she recently read and enjoyed and I sheepishly checked it out along with the very large stack of children’s books for my kids. We read through my children’s books that day and I finally cracked open the first fiction book I’d read in years and became once again engulfed in a story.
Admittedly I was reading at a much slower speed than I once had, constantly interrupted by two tiny humans who needed my attention and love. After about two weeks my book was completed and I began a new story. My children saw me reading my own book for hours; they saw me model a love for reading that I wanted for them so badly.
Now I read about a book a month, nothing like my old habit but better than nothing. I’m hopeful that my kids will see my love of reading as an adult and that they will have a lifelong love of reading as well.
When was the last time you read a book for yourself? I invite you to join me in reigniting your love for reading, put down your phone and pick up a good book this week with me and read.