By Gabriel Dinda
Every time I am invited to speak to people about reading, I start by asking why we should read in the first place. Or why we should have the event to discuss reading. Surprisingly, people know very well the benefits of reading and it is so clear to them that they should read more. When I ask the next question, “why don’t we read as often as we want?” then the floodgates open. “I lack time to read, I start reading a book and then get tired on the way, I don’t know what to read…” the answers are all relatable. Many of us have had these excuses at some point in our lives and in response to these issues, I suggest ten ways that I believe may help you read more and consistently.
- Ask for book recommendations
Part of the reason people don’t read more is that they don’t know what to read, or what would be relevant to them. I suggest this as the first point to give you a chance to stand on the shoulders of giants. How about you ask your mentor(s), a person you admire, your spiritual director, your priest/pastor, your close friend or anyone who in your wisdom, is in a position to recommend a good book to you? This way, you save time ‘discovering for yourself’ good books.
Our time on earth is so limited that’s why we may be unable to discover everything for ourselves. Ask for book recommendations from people you trust.
- Set a specific time to read
I have noticed that when our conversations with people end at, “ let’s organize and meet sometime,” we never meet. But when we are definite like, “ let’s meet next week on Wednesday in town at 5pm”, we always meet. When there is ambiguity such as,I should read daily, many times, we get excuses not to read today, but tomorrow. Like scheduling for a meeting, I find it most effective when you set a specific time to read. Your own unique circumstances should guide you on this. What works best for me is waking up early and reading for one hour thirty minutes daily before the day gets noisy. Set a specific time and decide how long you will read.
- Read DAILY
I liken reading to eating. Holding all factors constant, we eat on a daily basis, however, busy we are. Food is the nourishment to our bodies. Reading, in my view, is the nourishment to our minds. Why then are we comfortable feeding our bodies on a daily basis yet starving our minds for years? Anyone who is truly serious about something does it daily. That is why the birds sing every morning, regardless of the weather. The athletes practise on a daily basis. The church bells ring daily, calling you to nourish your soul. The sun rises on a daily basis (even if it doesn’t feel like). The wind blows, all year round, each new day even when they are busy. Why is this different for reading? Why would you only want to read when you feel like? For you to benefit fully from reading, you must do it on a daily basis.
- Read with an accountability partner
Naturally, we are very weak. Perhaps weaker than we imagine. That is why the constructors put metal grills at the edge of your balcony, because they know that you are very weak and can be tempted to jump even when you don’t mean it. That is why we are told to ‘trust but verify’. That’s is why even marriage between loved ones, done by request of the two have to be witnessed and a certificate signed, to remind them of the commitment they made. We all need that person to just keep check on us otherwise we can do things we never imagined we would do. Have that one person; they could be a mentor, a friend or a spouse, to just ask you; how is your reading coming along? What are you reading? Are you experiencing any challenges? The best sort of an accountability partner is a bilateral one. Where you both keep each other accountable. Please get someone to ‘watch over’ you. You are not a superman.
- Make notes
Again, we may think that our brains have a super memory, that we grasp everything we come across, but that is just a wish. Our brains grasp things but after numerous repetitions. I have found it very useful to take notes of interesting lines I come across as I read and write further readings resulting from the read. Every three months, I take a break and go for a retreat and just read through my notes. How joyful is it when you rekindle the ideas which were stimulated in your brain as you were reading a certain book. It is really joyful to be reminded of some of the commitments you made as you were reading a book. You could take notes using Apps or physically through notebooks (like I do). For the apps, my recommendation is; get an app which has features where even if you lose your device, you don’t lose the notes. There are apps with the capability to be synchronized with your email so that when you lose your device, your notes remain intact. “Keep It” a Notes app by Google is one such App. Either way, write notes as you read and read them often.
- Be available for book related activities
Join a book club or a book discussion around you. I am certain there are a number in your area. Choose one whose goal resonates with you and be actively involved in their activities. Once in a while, attend a book launch or a book signing by an author. Visit a bookshop once in a while, the same way you visit a supermarket for purposes of window shopping only. Go to a bookshop and just smell the books and see how beautiful the shelves are arranged. Attend book launches, book fairs or book exhibitions once in a while and generally be on the know regarding what is happening in the book environment. Register to be a member of a library and visit it once in a while (preferably with your family). Admire books around and be on the know. That way, you will get strength, meet relevant people and get encouraged to keep reading.
- Share with others what you have read.
You may take this point for granted but trust me, people really desire to hear about the good information you have gotten from books. When you look around, you see bad news everywhere. That is partly the case because you are silent on the good news that you have. Every time you read a book, please tell your friends about it. You can actually invite them for dinner at your place so that after the food, you share what you read. Tell your mentee about what you read. Write a review of the book (however sketchy) and post it on your social media or send to a local newspaper. Do whatever you can but share the lessons and any other information you learnt from the book with your friends. You won’t believe it but you will encourage so many people to read and you will at least neutralize the filthy information which is all around us.
- Set reading targets
Have some road map when reading. Set some targets to help you track how well you are doing. When you get a book of 200 pages for instance, you may set to read the books in ten days. That means you have to read twenty pages daily. You may read ten pages in the morning and ten in the evening. You may also set target like reading one book (to completion) a month, or one every two weeks (which we recommend). Have targets regarding your reading and break them down to the smallest unit (i.e daily targets). If you leave it at thirty books a year, you will be shocked how the year will vanish without even reading one of them. Have some road map.
- Carry a book everywhere you go
There is a reason why a soldier carries his gun everywhere he goes. There is a reason why a good Christian should carry the Bible or other prayer items wherever they go. There is a reason why mobile phones because more popular than landlines. It was because of their ability to accompany us wherever we go. Imagine going for a meeting, then having to wait for thirty minutes longer before the meetings starts. That’s such a good time to read a chapter. By reading, you will not realize that the thirty minutes have passed. You will actually desire more. When you travel, why gaze outside all the time? Try a book. I advise that your bag or folder should not lack a book. Wherever you go, there a book should be (either in physical or e-form). Read it at any available opportunity.
- Reward yourself for reading
Deep down, we are never too sufficient to receive. We all desire those moments when we feel appreciated and our efforts noticed. This is not any different for reading. I suggest a reward after every complete book you read. The reward could be in two levels; self-reward and joint reward. Self-reward is where you ‘take yourself out’, or do something that interests you after completion of a book. The joint reward (which we highly recommend), is where you appreciate your accountability partner after completion of a book. The reward does not have to be expensive. It only has to be genuine. You could appreciate them with a gift or you could treat them to something. Do something to take note of their efforts. Part of the reward should be writing the details of the book you have read down so that in future, you may look back and appreciate your journey.
These are just but suggestions, you may evaluate your circumstances and see what you can apply or modify. I hope you also understand to read only good books; books that grow you, your relationship with God and relationship with others. Keep reading at all times.
Gabriel Dinda is the Founder of Writers Guild Kenya. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org