Slice of Life: Finding Time to Read

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I can remember giving my days (and often my nights) over to books when I was a child and teenager. I read in great gulps, bingeing on books. When I found myself in a good book, I would shut out the rest of the world, shunning friends, family, and often sleep, in order to read. I read while eating, taking a bath, riding in the car, sitting in math class.

Now, I rarely sit down and read for more than half an hour at a time. On most days, I simply don’t have great chunks of time to read. I work full-time, teaching a 4/4 load (4 courses per semester), usually with 4 different preps each semester. I have a 120-mile round-trip commute to work. I have a husband, two children with emotional special needs, six cats, and a dog. I write, exercise, cook and bake, watch hours of sports, and make a valiant effort every single day to read the entire Internet. I also try to get 8 hours of sleep every night.  

Yet somehow, I’m reading more than I ever have. In 2013, I read over 700 books–about 530 picture books and 170 young adult, middle-grade, and adult fiction and nonfiction books.

I ask the students in my literature classes to read for several hours a week, and I know finding this time seems challenging for many of them. I’d find it daunting to identify a five-hour chunk of time to read each week too.

But that’s not how I do it. I read in what Donalyn Miller in Reading in the Wild calls “edge time.” Waiting at the dentist office. Stuck in line at the bank. During commercials. While my kids are at sports practice. I listen to audiobooks on my commute to work. When my students have time in class to read, I read too. I read aloud to my kids at breakfast and after dinner. (The breakfast reading is what made my picture book total skyrocket this year.) And every night, no matter how tired I am, I read for 20-30 minutes before turning out the light. All these little bits of reading time add up.

I have two special reading times each week when I devote a longer chunk of time to reading: Friday afternoons from 2-3, after my husband has gone to work and before my kids get home, and Saturday morning, before the rest of my family wakes up.

I make it a rule to always have a book with me. I have books in my car, my purse, my book bag, in every room of my house, and all over my office. I have books on my computer, my iPad, and my phone. 

I could easily find more time to read if I unplugged more.

I mostly read what I enjoy–which makes a difference. I want to get back to my book, because it’s almost always good.

Reading books is important to me–personally and professionally. As Randy Bomer reminds us in Time for Meaning, we make time for what we value.  Whenever I start thinking that I don’t have enough time to do the things I want to do, I remind myself of Bomer’s words and how I have choices about what I prioritize.

How do you find time to read?

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17 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Finding Time to Read

  1. Loved reflecting on this post. I have definite times where I find chunks of uninterrupted time to read – during the year when I am working, most of these times are early morning on the weekend before anyone else is up. I also read numerous picture books and nonfiction titles to my class and my own children. But yes, the trick is when to squeeze in more? I can read picture books while folding laundry. This is a new talent! I also read every night – sometimes for longer sessions than others. Having book goals keeps me motivated but really it is all about the magic of new to me books. Stories save me – from all of the stress of everyday and a classroom with intense needs. Reading also saves my class – it is how we have become a community. I can’t imagine a day passing where I didn’t read. Or read aloud. It’s just what I must do.

    • Reading while folding laundry! That’s some impressive multi-tasking. Picture books open so nice and flat–they can be hands-free reading! I think one way I also find more time to read is that I don’t do much daily cleaning. My kids are in charge of most of the daily cleaning chores around here. (Though I probably use more of this “found time” for social media stuff than for actually reading books.) I don’t know if there was ever a time in my life when reading didn’t matter to me. There were times when I didn’t like what I was reading, to be sure–especially getting 3 degrees in English Literature! I loathe assigned reading and have a hard time even now making myself read what’s assigned–even when I am the one assigning it for a course I’m teaching! But even when I was weighted down with books I didn’t want to read, I always found time to read what I wanted to read as well–just not as much of it. I also can’t imagine a day passing where I didn’t read.

    • I also spend way too much time on my phone or iPad during edge time–I could find many more minutes each week to read if I cut down on computer time! But I also love spending time reading and commenting on blogs and catching up on Twitter or email. I think in 2014, I do want to make more time for unplugging. Not something I do very often!

  2. My husband and I share a non-dream-house bathroom so I get up in the morning and get completely ready before he needs to shower. After making lunches, I usually have time to do some reading while everyone else is still involved in their morning routines. It is so peaceful downstairs at dawn.

    I think having a book or two with you at all times is key. My best friend recently got stuck at a hotel for two days during Illinois’ snowstorm and deep freeze while coming back from her daughter’s hockey tournament. She told me that she and her daughter had plenty of books to help pass the time, while other families complained about having nothing to do and constantly fretted about when and if they should leave. My friend and her daughter loved their bonus reading time 🙂

    • I LOVE morning time! I love sleep too, but I am never sad when I wake up before the alarm because it’s so quiet and peaceful. Just me and the cats and some reading time! Love the story about your friend getting stuck in the snowstorm and never being bored. I’ve found that waiting doesn’t really bother me that much, and I think it’s because I always have reading to do. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I love this — edge time is so important. I made one of #nerdlution goals to be about reading 30 min a day for pleasure. I found that I am now reading so much more than that. Audio books have also saved me!
    Thanks Clare

    • Wonderful #nerdlution goal! I agree with you–a small daily commitment can actually lead to more time spent reading. After all, once you’re in a good book, it can be hard to put it down. And when you are actively seeking time for reading, little pockets and windows open up. I don’t know what I would do without audiobooks! So many wonderful ones to listen to.

  4. When I lived further away, I listened to many audio books, but now I’m minutes from work & stores, etc. so don’t listen anymore, & while I’m cleaning, I listen to music, but I use the other ‘edge’ times you’ve mentioned, always have a book or a device with me so I can read. I think it’s a very good thing, and did a book talk just today, having so much fun getting students excited about a pile of books! Love hearing about your reading life, Elisabeth!

  5. I think I read in many places, but after reading your post, I know I have much room for improvement. Saturday mornings are one of my favorite times to read. No hurry, I can take my time.

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  9. I am one of the “I can never find enough time to read” students. I really liked your idea of edge reading and getting audio books. I commute to work each day, and that would be a great time to listen to a bit of reading!

  10. I am inspired when I read how you are reading to your kids at the dinner table. My father instilled the idea of reading wherever you are in my life. I can’t think of a time when he is not reading: the paper, books, magazines, pamplets, maps, history books, lables anything and everything. I also have tried to instill that in my son. What a blessing to read about your endevors and the life. I will strive to read more especially with my son. THank YOu!

  11. It’s amazing how one can carve out minutes to read. I typically read about an hour before I need to be asleep at night. I make sure the kids, animals, husband, etc., are taken care of and then announce, “I’m going to read for a bit before bed.” One of my daughters happily reads during this time, as well. She’s the one that I get “complaints” about from her teachers about “making her close her book.” There are worse things in life.

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