A Reader's Tips to Cultivating a Reading Habit

Caveat: These are untested hypothesis, or more specifically the sample size that has proved this is n=1, which is not enough to make statistical inferences of rejection or non-rejection. However, I have often been asked to state what I think could be done to improve or spark up people's interest in reading. And I have often pretended that what I used when I began blogging in 2009 will work for everyone. I must add that I was a reader even before 2009 but book blogging requires a much higher dedication to reading and a much more careful reading. Whether this will work for another individual aside myself remains to be seen, but how else will I know this than to share it with others.

To begin with, I believe everybody reads. We read inscriptions, letters, manuals, directions, road-signs, Christian literature, novels, plays, poetry. We form and read sentences within our minds. The problem therefore is not that people do not read at all. It is the frequency and type of reading done. After all, the 2010 Census puts the combined literacy rate among individuals 15 and above (>=15) to be around 71.5% (78.3% for men, and 65.3% for women). The tips here are for formal literary reading materials, which exclude inscriptions, manuals, academic notes and others.

Identify a Genre of Interest. The first thing a person who wants to read more should do is to identify the area of interest. Is it novels, poetry, plays, creative non-fiction, essays, memoirs, Christian literature? Is it psychological thrillers, romance, literary fiction, whodunit; haiku, epic poems, odes, sonnets, limericks; tragedy or comedy? If one is not sure exactly what one is looking for, identify the things that interest you in life, and there are bound to be books on them. Again, one can rely on 'top lists' such as those prepared by international magazines (New York Times, Guardian, etc) and certain award-winning books - the Booker Prize-winning books hardly disappoint. Book blogs also provide important guides. With their reviews one could identify his interests.

It is only in reading books of interest that one could experience the pleasure in reading for reading sake, regardless of the subject. For instance, I will not recommend religiously sensitive books to a person who cannot tolerate criticisms of their religion regardless of the beauty of the prose. With time, when they have come to enjoy reading for its own sake, they will read them. But for a beginner, a bad recommendation could smother his incipient desire to read; sometimes forever.

Start Small. This is very important. More often, when we set a resolution, we want to breeze through to the end, so that we can pat ourselves for a job well-done. Reading is different. No one finishes reading. Besides, you want to develop a habit for reading and habits are not events, they last a lifetime. And need I say there are more books than one could read, even in a specific field of interest? Therefore it is important to start small. Set a manageable daily target. Decide to read, say a minimum of 30 pages a day. Don't overstretch yourself. Stay with this figure, regardless of the workload. Reading 30 pages a day will translate into an average of about 3 books a month, if one consider an average book to be around 250 pages, and 36 books in the year.

Be Consistent. Whilst you need not overstretch yourself, you need to be consistent. Consistency is the key to developing a lifetime habit. Ensure that whatever the case may be you will read at least the daily minimum target. This is the main reason why you need to set a manageable target, but don't be self-serving, setting the minimum to 10 pages helps no one. You are likely to procrastinate if your reading is inconsistent. That is, if you read say 10 pages today and 50 pages another, you are likely to postpone reading when the workload load is slightly higher, promising yourself to make it up at the next reading, which might not be the case. There are a lot of leisurely activities that compete for our time, in this technological age. Video games are one prime example and a conscious effort should be made not to lose one's time to them. Before you complain of time and workload, note that the most read American President, Theodore Roosevelt read one book a day when he was busy and two to three books when he had free evenings. Franklin D. Roosevelt's personal library consisted a stupendous 22,000 volumes. Thomas Jefferson described himself as having a 'canine appetite for reading'. It is said that when the British burned the 3,000-volume Library of Congress, he offered Congress between 9,000 and 10,000 volumes from his personal collection as replacement. He is reputed to have read in French, Italian, and Spanish, and that he once designed a rotating bookstand that allowed him to consult five books at a time.

Make Time. Note that there is nothing like 'reading time'. If one wants to read, one must make the time. Time is infinite, at least no one knows its beginning or when it will end. But in one's lifetime, it is finite. What is certain is that we will die at a point and have twenty-four hours at our disposal in a day. Within this period, we sleep, eat, fight, work, talk, gossip, walk, socialise, etc. No matter what one does, this time will be used by the end of the day. Time is not money you can save. You either use it or lose it. Developing a reading culture means cutting down on some activities - using the time allocated for some activities (consciously or unconsciously) to read. The 3-hour you spend watching TV could be used to read. You can read on the bus - if you do not drive or ride yourself to work. You can read at lunch time. You can read early morning. Make time to read.

Develop a Strategy. Each individual has the time that best works for him. Look for yours. Or develop one. For instance, if you want to read 30 pages a day, you could read 10 pages in the morning, 10 pages at lunch time, and 10 pages in the evening before going to bed. It should be fun. For me I read early in the morning, just before work starts, and in the evening. I also ensconce myself in my book when I am in public transports (troro or taxis). I read at the least opportunity. I carry my book with me to the banks, knowing how much time they still demand of clients.

Join a Community of Readers. It helps a great deal if your friends are reading. The most interesting part of reading is talking about the book one has read with equally book-loving people. T'is paradise. For me, nothing comes near to this. It is bliss. However, if you do not have such friends, join online book blogging communities. Blogging about books is one way to keep you reading, since you can only create content by reading. Having a number of loyal followers means preventing disappointment, which will encourage you to read. If time will not make blogging a possibility, following discussions on such reading platforms as Goodreads.com, Rifflebooks.com, LibraryThing.com, Shelfari.com, etc is a great alternative. These platforms, unlike other social sites (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are dedicated solely for book discussions. Or one can be selective in his usage of the traditional social media sites. Google+ has communities dedicated to books and discussions; Facebook has reading groups. You can also join book reading clubs. Today, one need not have such clubs in one's community. The internet has made it possible for virtual book clubs to exist.

Challenge Yourself. Yes, I have already said do not overstretch yourself. However, you could set yearly targets and challenge yourself. For instance, again, Goodreads has a platform where readers could decide the number of books they will want to read in the year, at the beginning of that year. The readers then follow their progress over time. Goodreads furnishes the reader with the number of books read, whether he is on target or not, and other such trivia. The reader can, automatically, share his progress on social media platforms, providing progress on books he is reading.

Choose an Appropriate Medium. Choose your medium carefully. This may sound absurd but if you are a technology freak, you are more likely to enjoy the e-readers. If your work involves travelling, packing enough books may pose a challenge and therefore e-readers will come in handy. However, if you are a conservative reader, you may want to stick with physical books. Unless you are like me and do not care about the weight of books, the easiest way to reading Tolstoy's War and Peace is on an e-reader. However, e-readers will decide which books to physically purchase and which to delete. E-readers also solve the problem of book accessibility, which hampers reading in some countries. Note that I am not a fan of e-readers, I do not own one.

If all Things Fail. If all things fail, be worried by such sayings as 'if you want to hide something from a black person hide it in books', if you are black. Also know that 'knowledge is power' and that through books we can live several lives. Know that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. In the end, I hope you can emulate the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges and boast about the number of pages you have read.
Let others pride themselves about how many pages they have written; I'd rather boast about the ones I've read. - Jorge Luis Borges
Note: This is an on-going thesis and changes might be made as and when it becomes necessary.


  1. This is a fantastic list. Each bullet point can generate its own list of strategies. Thank you!


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