Ease Back Into Reading
If reading a book has been hard to do the last little while, don’t fret! You are not alone. We’ve experienced a traumatic global pandemic and endured massive disruption in our personal and professional lives.
All of this has occurred in a time when social media, apps, and the internet pull us in all directions.
While it is an enjoyable leisure activity, reading a book requires significant focus. With so many factors affecting our attention spans, reading has become more challenging for many people. It’s important to acknowledge that the pandemic has changed us. Here is a gentle, librarian-approved map back to books.
The Dry Spell
First things first: let’s not feel bad about it. Studies show that COVID-19 has lowered people’s capacity for sustained attention. But pandemic or not, dry spells among readers are common. Our reading habits fluctuate over time and the pandemic has made these highs and lows more pronounced for many people. Don’t be hard on yourself—as fairy tales remind us, spells are routinely cast and then broken.
Let Reading Be Easy
Speaking of fairy tales, one way back to reading is by starting small. Whether or not you have kids, children’s literature is powerful.
Readers of all ages benefit from children’s books. Who among us has not felt the enlightenment of Charlotte’s wisdom in E. B. White’s beloved classic, Charlotte’s Web?
Children’s literature invites a sense of ease to our reading. Often shorter, creative, and accessibly written, children’s fiction can help us reap the rewards of reading faster.
The same is true for a lot of poetry, and some short stories. Collections of smaller works like essays and anthologies give you permission to read for a short amount of time and still enjoy the sense of accomplishment and closure that comes from “finishing” a book.
Take your inner kid out for a play date and pick some children’s books. Read nature poems outside. Acknowledge all the reading you already do in your life. Let it be easy and watch the bridge to long-form genres appear.
Once you’ve reacquainted yourself with short bursts of reading, go just beyond. Reading longer texts is like taking a good exercise class for the brain. It requires us to focus more, and while that might feel challenging, it builds on our ability. Concentration is a learned skill, and building your concentration takes practice.
Set yourself up for success by removing distractions that you find disruptive. Try putting your smartphone in another room or asking your family to give you fifteen minutes without interruption. Be gentle. If it doesn’t “work” the first or second time, don’t give up.
Lean Into Connection
Connecting to others is another gentle way back. Start a low-stakes book club with friends or join an existing one. Burlington Public Library hosts regular book clubs that are free and easy to join.
The thing about book clubs is that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to finish the book to attend. Let others fill in the blanks for you. Gathering in the spirit of books may help restore motivation, curiosity, and comfort in reading.
Reading aloud is something to experiment with. Saying the words aloud may help orient you to your place in the text. The practice is ancient. Following the thread of togetherness, try reading aloud to someone, or listening to someone read to you. Explore how this feels different from silent, independent reading. See what stirs.
I've Started Reading Again. What Now?
Reader, you’re doing a wonderful job. While struggling with reading can be frustrating, the practices shared above can help reorient you back to the page. Did anything stand out? Make note! Think of the reading habits you want to nurture, then define the next realistic step you can practice to embody those habits. Returning to reading can be a fun experience.
So, grab that picture book! Or join that book club. Wherever you find yourself on your reading journey, books become our companions along the way.