Summer reading is a thing because students have always been encouraged by teachers to read during that long school vacation. Libraries and bookstores even have special programs to encourage children to read all summer. Reading all summer should be a habit we all started when we were in school. Most adults, however, don’t have all summer off to read. As adults, we need to make time to read all year long. Unfortunately, we have failed to maintain a culture of reading that extends into adulthood. studies show that a quarter of American adults haven’t read even part of a book in the last year. Like many other subjects, once no one is grading us we no longer have the motivation to read.
As an elementary school teacher for over twenty years, teaching reading was a key part of my day. We spent a lot of time analyzing plot and characters, and answering comprehension questions that killed the joy of reading for everyone. Then I read The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller, and rediscovered reading delight. I began allowing students to choose their own books to read rather than requiring books or using a textbook. I taught them skills, like how to connect with the text, and had them practice it on their own chosen reading. Because they chose the book, they were much more engaged. They began to love reading.
I wish I could do the same for adults, but I can’t expect adults to take a reading class from me. So the best I can do is to offer five reasons to begin a continuous reading habit.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” —Sir Richard Steele
Reading helps the brain remember and retain information. Reading increases your comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills without even studying. Just like reading keeps a child’s brain sharp all summer, it will keep an adult mind sharp, too, and prevent some of the issues with the brain that sometimes happen in advanced age.
I didn’t go to school much, so I taught myself what I knew from reading.” —Doris Lessing
With books, a reader can explore controversial topics in comfort and privacy. By reading at home, readers can explore new ideas without the distraction of anger and prejudice. The lives and teachings of people very different from yourself become accessible in a personal way and allow you to see from a new perspective.
Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books.” – Bell Hooks
Books can broaden the mind in personal ways as well. A reader can experience both real and imagined people who have lived lives that inspire. Books can show you what’s possible emotionally and socially, in ways you can apply to your own lives.
Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.” —Mary Schmich
Especially in a time of travel-dampening COVID, books can take readers places. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, exotic places come alive in books. It’s no substitute for actually going, of course, but reading about a place can take you there more cheaply!
Because I saw my parents relaxing in armchairs and reading and liking it, I thought it was a peaceful grown-up thing to do, and I still think that.” —Maeve Binchy
Reading a book allows readers to take a break from the stress of constant screens. Ignore emails and social media, and step away from virtual meetings and conferences. Immerse yourself in another world and let your own worries fade for a while.
Don’t forget that seeing their parents read is a great inspiration for children. Every summer when my sons were growing up, I sat down with them for an hour every day and we read silently, all three of us. I treasure those times.
If you aren’t currently a reader, don’t despair. Anything you read will benefit you, including articles you find on social media, a magazine, or a children’s book. More and more adults are reading and enjoying Young Adult books, too. Set yourself a goal you can achieve, like one book a month or two in three months. Join a site like Goodreads that allows you to track what you read and recommends books. Or join a Facebook group like SHINE with Paper Lantern Writers to talk with authors and other readers. Most importantly, start reading. You just finished reading this blog post, and that’s a great start!