One of the biggest reasons that people don’t read is because they don’t find it fun. For many it just feels like another chore on a very long to-do list. “Oh, I should read if I want to be an informed person.” “Gee, I guess I should read such-and-such book because everyone at work is reading it.” And kids get stuck with so much boring reading (and teaching) in school that they often don’t find free reading to be anything more than more homework. “I’d rather be playing video games,” or “I’ve done my homework, I’m not doing any more of that boring crap,” they say.
The reason people read (at least for pleasure and not for school/work) is because they find it fun. For a variety of reasons, they enjoy curling up with a good book and getting lost in a world or engaging with new ideas. It’s not rocket science. If reading is as fun as other activities (video games, TV/movies, hobbies, etc.), it will be a chosen activity. If it’s boring or difficult, people will choose something else to do with their free time. Simple, right?
But how, exactly, do you make reading fun and enjoyable? I think there are two paths to follow. You need to make the act of reading fun, and you also need to make the rituals and habits that surround reading fun, as well. This is true for both children and adults. What works for one works for the other, with perhaps a couple of modifications to accommodate different ages.
Think about the hobbies you enjoy and you’ll probably find this is true. For example, a photographer likely not only enjoys taking pictures, but also enjoys shopping for new equipment, attending classes and studying the finer points of the craft, visiting galleries to see the work of others, and discussing technique with others. It’s not only the act of photography that is fun, but all of the adjacent activities. And those adjacent activities feed the joy of the act itself. It’s a feedback loop of fun and positivity.
Yet for some reason with reading we assume that plonking down in a chair and just reading ought to be fun. And it can be, or it can feel like some sort of solitary chore. But as with other activities, there’s a whole host of adjacent activities that can add to the fun. And that’s the key to making reading fun: Finding those other activities and adding them to your personal feedback loop so that the entire act and ritual of reading becomes fun for you.
Now, what constitutes fun is going to be different for every person. You may not enjoy certain activities while others do. The key is to keep experimenting and trying new things until you find what’s fun for you, and then add those items to your reading feedback loop.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Read what you want. Don’t get caught up in what you “should” be reading or what others are reading. Just read what you want.
- Try out various programs. There are plenty of reading programs out there, both for kids and adults. Kids have things like Pizza Hut’s Book It, and summer programs sponsored by retailers and libraries. These incentivize reading through free food and other giveaways. Adults can often find similar programs offered through libraries or other community organizations. Can’t find one? Start your own.
- Book clubs. Yep, some of these can absolutely be terrible and suck the fun right out of reading. They can make school seem like utter joy. But if you can find a good one it can be a huge source of fun. Even virtual groups can be enjoyable. If you find a good book club, experiment with fun things like having a picnic meeting and playing some Frisbee afterward, or taking a group outing to see a movie based on a book, etc. There’s no reason you have to sit in a room and talk nothing but books.
- Shopping. Sure, you can buy all your stuff on Amazon or load up on ebooks from the library and call it a day. But acquiring books is half the fun. Take your time wandering the local bookstore or library. Make “book day” an event and get lunch afterward or do something else to make it a special day. Kids can participate in book fairs at school. Yes, even today these events still come to town and they’re still the best day to pick out books.
- Enjoy the rituals of reading. Pick a favorite chair, snack/drink, or music and revel in that while you enjoy your latest books. Pick your favorite/special bookmark and use it only for your “fun” reading. You’ll have your own rituals so make them special and find ways to enhance them.
- Author events. Do you have a favorite author? Find out when they’re coming to town and head to their event. Events can often be fun in their own right, but the experience of meeting your favorite author and hearing them speak or asking them questions can really add spark when you read their next work.
- Classes. Yeah, I’m not talking about school, exactly. Some people enjoy taking classes as part of their fun reading. You can find extension courses in literature, literary criticism, the classics, poetry and a whole host of other reading-related subjects. If learning is your thing, sign up.
- Use social media. Carefully. Look, social media can be a great tool and it can make finding your reading tribe super easy. But it can also be a cesspool of garbage that creates more negativity than fun. Use it to connect with people who make you happy and who engage in stimulating discussion. Jump off any sites that make you feel “less than.” Some places will make you feel terrible if you read genre fiction, for example, and some people are super hostile to different points of view. Choose carefully.
Image courtesy of Tumisu