If you’re anything like me, you used to hold a passionate and tender love for reading books. You spent hours of your day in your local library, devouring every story you could get your hands on. You gasped in delight whenever a new Rick Riordan novel came out and you fantasized about going to book signings to meet your favorite middle-grade authors.
All that changed once you entered high school.
Nowadays, the average high school student faces a much higher competitive environment in our schools. We’re expected to volunteer, participate in school events, take part in extracurricular activities and maintain leadership roles, all while scoring high on all the homework, essays and exams required of us. At a certain point, reading has very much become a backburner priority: often, we find ourselves reading little other than the books assigned to us to study.
Where is the fire? Where’s the heat? Where has that eager yearning for the next page gone? For the past few years, I’ve been desperately trying (and mostly failing) to reclaim that former passion for the simple delight of words. Here are the conclusions and tips I’ve compiled from my experience:
1. Let go of your inner critic.
I put this tip first because I believe this is the most important one. Like artists and writers, I believe that every reader has a little inner critic. It tells you that you’re not good enough. It tells you that you don’t read enough. It tells you that you read too slow or that what you read isn’t challenging or age-appropriate or “literary” enough. It tells you that you’re not really a reader. You’re only just pretending. You go to school and someone in your English class has already finished the book you’ve been studying for months. You go on the internet and someone’s reading a book a day. When you’re dealing with all of these insecurities, it can be really hard to even open a book, much less read it.
I also put this tip first because it’s the hardest to achieve. I’m still struggling with it. The only advice I can give you is the oldest one in the book: just do it. Choose a book that seems interesting to you and you only, and just flip to the first page. Don’t think of it as homework, or something you HAVE to do, but rather treat it as you would a Netflix binge session. Read as much or as little as you want. If you don’t like it, put it down and read something else. Don’t think about the time, or how fast you’re reading. Just, for a moment, allow yourself to indulge in another world.
2. Always carry a book around with you.
That all sounds great, but with school and the SAT and volleyball and the spring play right around the corner, I just have no time! I hear you shout. Trust me, I get it. With college looming right around the corner, it feels like a luxury to just sit down with a cup of tea and lose yourself in a book. But your reading doesn’t always have to happen in cozy nooks with a cup of tea as your Pinterest board suggests.
If you always carry around a book or two wherever you go, you find that you have little snippets throughout the day to sneak in a chapter or two. Next time you’re waiting for the bus or feel the need to pull out your phone and refresh Twitter for the fifth time in ten minutes, pick up that book in your bag and just read. Use that extra bulge in your tote as a constant reminder of an alternate way to alleviate boredom.
3. Join bookish social media.
Okay, okay, I know: this seems contradictory. Didn’t I just say, like, one tip ago, not to use social media? Also, the very first tip was about not comparing yourself to others! How are you supposed to do that when you see better readers than you every day on your socials?
Yes, when you’re struggling with your inner critic, it’s easy to take one look at Goodreads or bookstagram and feel even more overwhelmed and insecure. So let me make this clear: this tip only applies to those who feel their inner critic has been conquered at least mostly. But once you reach that point, book-related social media can become a great motivator.
- Bookstagram helps you find new reads and enjoy both the literary and the aesthetic value of books. You can make your own bookstagram to share your current reads and to hear about other people’s thoughts! You can participate in “read with me” live streams, which are exactly what they sound like. You can fangirl about that one character you can’t seem to get over, discuss feminist characters in classic literature and celebrate diverse books. All on one platform!
- Goodreads is a website/app that helps you keep track of what you’re reading, what you want to read and what other people are reading. You can follow celebrities, politicians and activists to see what’s on their five-star book list. You can follow your friends to see what they’re currently reading. It also helps you keep track of all those books you want to read. The next time a book catches your eye, simply take out your phone, scan the barcode and click “Want to Read”!
- Booktube is the best source for all your long-form bookish content. Booktubers review their recent reads, talk about their to be read books and spur discussions on what it means to be “a reader.” Most importantly, they help relight that spark of excitement in reading! Some booktubers I recommend include Ariel Bissett, paperbackdreams, booksandquills and Emma Angeline.
So, wise Padawan, I have shown you all that I know. Now, go forth and discover new countries, battle alongside empires of old and fall in love, all from the comfort of your room.
Featured Image via Becca Tapert (@beccatapert) on Unsplash