When was the last time we’ve all picked up a book—for fun?
My memories of childhood somehow all conjure up the same scene—me sitting anywhere I pleased, whether it be the couch or library corner, voraciously tearing through novel after novel of Geronimo Stilton. After Geronimo Stilton, I’d move onto more tasteful classics such as Judy B. Jones or Nancy Drew, the brilliant female detective. Alas, such rapturous attention between the pages began waning over the years due to a variety of stimuli in my life.
Chances are, you’re reading this article with two or more devices around you right now, all simultaneously plotting to capture your attention span. Scary, right? According to the National Library for Biotechnology Information, the average American can only focus on one thing for about 8.25 seconds. Although there’s no doubt about the benefits of staying connected with our friends, coworkers, and Internet strangers, the glory of the good old book is being overshadowed by our urge for mass communication. Considering half of Americans haven’t turned a page in a year, how do we solve an issue that is so prevalent in society—and start reading again?
#1: Set aside time in your schedule to read.
Although painfully obvious, the first thing to do may actually be the hardest for many—blocking off time in your day to sit down with a book. It doesn’t have to be a binge-reading session for hours; even 15 minutes a day can change your entire outlook. If you can’t get up early, try bringing your book in transit to work, school, or on the train. You might be surprised at how many little moments here and there can add up in your total reading time.
#2: Find the reading method that’s best for you.
Since when did paperbacks have to be so high-maintenance? If you don’t enjoy reading on traditional print, that shouldn’t be a reason to stop the habit. Nowadays, e-readers and audiobooks, which are popular en masse, can even be more handy to bring along in your daily commute. Libby, a free app on iOS or web, can connect to your local library system and allow you to seamlessly download and read thousands of books right on its interface. Or try a Kindle, which is portable and spill-proof—believe me, I’ve learned that the hard way.
#3: Keep track of your reading progress to stay motivated.
Remember elementary school, when reading logs were a surefire way to kill the spirits of even the most eager students (see: me)? Luckily, tracking your reading journey doesn’t have to be monotonous. You can leave a review of each novel you finish on Goodreads or even just for your own eyes. Ranking your top favorite genres or authors of the year may help you understand more about your own interests as well. Overall, make your progress tracking enjoyable, not a chore. Make yourself want to come back and read more.
I’ve always wondered why I let my fervent reading streak die so early. Was it, perhaps, the iPhone and iPad that I got one Christmas? Was it the slow pile-on of extracurriculars, social activities, and new hobbies in my life? I—and most other Americans—will never know, but at least we can try to reignite the old flame of discovering a writer’s world. One page at a time, our attention spans will recall the days where they were immersed for hours upon hours, adventuring with Jack and Annie in their magical treehouse or visiting a secret garden. We don’t need to turn back time. Our imaginations can do that for us.