Read a Dang Book!

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Well, it’s Christmas break. What a wonderful time of the year! Lots of hot chocolate, lots of time with family, giant family get-togethers and meals, maybe a little bit of work, and lots of time for watching TV. Also in less than a month, it’ll be time to set your New Year’s resolutions…that you’ll forget about the next day.
BUT, instead of watching all that TV…………….
How about trying to read during this Christmas season? If you’re like me, you have a pile (or 2…or 3….or 20) of books that you want to read “some day”. Instead of waiting for the New Year to “resolve” to read a new book every day or some other ridiculous goal (come on, I know you’ve all set goals like that too!), why not start reading now? Read this post and let it inspire you to start reading, and help you get started.

Now, There are a few major reasons that people don’t start in on that pile of books.

  • They don’t think they have the time.
  • They get overwhelmed when they see the amount they want to read.
  • They tend to start reading and then think of something else to do, and the book gets pushed aside for……3 years.
  • They figure that they’ll forget most of what they read by the next week anyway.
  • They get bored, or they don’t think the material is interesting or that it has nothing to do with their life.

If any of these excuses apply to you (I’m pretty sure they all have applied to me – more than once), let me help you out a little bit.

“I don’t have the time to read a book!”

I use this excuse all the time. I’m so busy, you know? Between doing stuff for school (which includes its own reading), working, and trying to keep up some sort of a social life, it’s hard to find time to “read for fun”! There are two simple fixes to this problem though. 1) Set aside a certain amount of time each day to read. Whether it’s 20 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour and a half, set the time you’re going to start, and stick to it! Try setting an alarm on your phone at the end of your time so that you can go about the rest of your daily duties and activities. This requires some will-power, but for the most part just pick a time to read, and in about a week you’ll have a habit set in place and it won’t seem quite so strange. 2) Improve your reading speed. If you don’t think you’re a very fast reader, a few things will help you speed up:

  1. use a guide. Follow along the line with your finger or a pen as you read. This helps reduce 2 things that slow down your reading – Fixation (spending too much time on one word or phrase in the text) and Regression (going back and reading a section of text over one or two more times.)
  2. Reduce fixation points and use your peripheral vision. This one’s a little harder to do. When you read, you probably say each word individually in your head. It’s almost as if there’s a small break between each word, or maybe every two words. Instead of reading like this, pretend those breaks are between every 4 or 5 words, or between each contextual phrase. Pretend like the sentence you’re reading is a road sign or the text on the front of a store. You take in the meaning as a whole, rather than spending a lot of time on each word individually. This doesn’t mean you skip words or that you don’t read every piece of text – but that you take the text in as a whole. This will help you read faster, along with using a guide like I told you in point #1.

“There’s so much to read, I don’t know where to begin!” and “Ohh! My favorite episode of M*A*S*H is on!!!!”

I definitely understand these reasons for not reading. There are so many books that I want to read, I just don’t even start because I keep thinking about how much there is to go through, and how nice it would be to know all that information. This just seems to stop me in my tracks, and I don’t even pick up the first book. It is also very easy to get distracted by gadgets, tv, food, people walking outside, etc… when you first sit down to read. Here are a few tips to combat this thinking:

  1. Just sit down and pick up a dang book! You have to start somewhere, so just choose one! My suggestion is this: pick up a smaller book first to practice the things I’m telling you about in this blog post. A smaller book will keep you from getting overwhelmed, and when you get done with it (which will be fairly quickly due to the book’s size) you will feel quite accomplished, and will be more likely to pick up the next book on the stack.
  2. Hide the other books!Now, don’t hide them where you’ll forget about them – you do want to finish as many of these books as you can over the next month or two. However, if you put the stack of books in the corner of your room, or put them on their own shelf in your bookshelf or personal library, you won’t be as tempted to look over at them and get frustrated with how little it seems you’ve already read. It’s always good to trick your mind at times like these. So, put those books away and focus on ONE (the one you chose in step 1)…not the whole pile of text you want to finish.
  3. Put away those distractions!! Our minds tend to wander, especially when we sit down to read and the tv is on, or our computer, cell phone, or iPad is staring us in the face. The best way to combat this is by sitting in a comfortable chair across the room, and out of sight of your tv and technological gadgets. Close the window shades if you have to, get away from all those things that distract you, and get reading! If there isn’t any significant thing competing for your attention, you’ll be much more apt to fulfill your reading commitment for however long you chose to read.
  4. another quick tip: If you think you have something to do, most likely you’ll get up in the middle of reading to go do it. So instead, do whatever is on your mind at the time so you can focus on reading. It is also helpful to keep a small notebook and pen nearby so that if you think of something to do, you can write it down in the notebook and forget about it til you’re done reading.

“I always forget what I read anyway, why even start the book?”

I definitely get this one. I do not have a great memory. I love learning about memory, and I love trying to improve it, but I must admit – mine is quite average, if not sub-par. However, this should not get in the way of your ability or desire to read! There are several ways to go about increasing your reading comprehension (how much you understand) and retention (how much you remember).
First, let’s look at three things you can use before reading through the book in order to understand more of it and then remember what you read. This method simulates “multiple read-throughs” – that is, it tricks your brain into thinking it’s read the book before. And reading through a book two or more times has been shown to improve both comprehension of the text as well as retention of the information you read. This method is suited mainly to non-fiction books.

  1. Preview: Read the first and last paragraph of the chapter you’re on. This will give you a glimpse at what the main idea of the chapter is, because you see the introduction and the conclusion.
  2. Overview: Read the first sentence of each paragraph in the chapter you’re reading. This gives you a rough outline of the chapter and will help your brain go faster when you actually read through the book.
  3. Mindmap: After previewing and overviewing what you’re going to read, make a mind map from the information you’ve gathered. Make sure to use colors, images, and words/succinct phrases to make use of your brain’s “language” which makes it easier to remember. See links at the bottom of this post to learn more about mind-mapping.

After going through these 3 steps, read through the book. I think you’ll find that you remember a lot more of the book when you’re finished reading than you would without the preparation.

Here’s another idea for helping you retain the information you read.

  1. Highlight: While you read through the book, highlight the most powerful information. Don’t highlight everything, just the most important points.
  2. Rewrite: Keep a notebook/journal handy whenever you read a book or article. As you read and highlight, write down the highlighted sections in your journal so you have a rough outline of the important material in the book.
  3. Highlight: When you finish with the book, go through your written notes and highlight the ones that stick out most to you. You now have a journal with all your favorite thoughts from the book, and by highlighting and rewriting – those thoughts will stick in your head longer than if you just read the book. To make them stick even longer in your brain, try making a mind-map out of the points you wrote in the journal. To be more detailed, create a mind map for each chapter or each section.

“I’m bored!”

Well…..suck it up. 🙂 No really, keep reading what you’re reading. Try to make the information pertinent to you – pretend that you enjoy the book, or think that it’s interesting – you just may find that you really are interested in it. However, If you don’t need to read the book and you don’t want to, maybe you should think about not reading it, and choosing a better book instead.

Well, there’s my advice and helpful hints. I hope something here helps you out in your quest for more reading! 🙂
I am currently trying to take my own advice – I am reading “Escape from Reason” by Francis Schaeffer; and I also plan on reading “He is There and He is Not Silent” by Francis Schaeffer; “A Selection of: Church Dogmatics” by Karl Barth; “Bonhoeffer, Christ, and Culture”; and “The Reformed Handbook”. I may try to post a mind map or two when I make them – we’ll see when the time comes. Anyway, cheerio and happy reading!

Mind-Mapping Links:
Youtube: Tony Buzan’s TEDtalk on Mind Mapping
The Mind Map Book (1) – Tony Buzan
The Mind Map Book (2) – Tony Buzan
Tony Buzan on Amazon

Another helpful book: Moonwalking with Einstein – Josh Foer


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