Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reading Revival — Seven Ways to Find Time for Books in College

Think you're too busy for pleasure reading? Here are some tips that'll give you time enough at last.  ♦ 
College is a time to discover yourself, to meet lifelong friends and realize new passions. While your four years at school will help you open up new doors, it shouldn’t be at the cost of your old interests. In the exciting and often overwhelming world of classes and clubs, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice what you love.
     Unfortunately, for one demographic, this is very often the case — book lovers.
   Like many bibliophiles, I’ve been reading enthusiastically and prolifically since I was very young. From The Magic Tree House to The Shining, I gobbled up every book I could get my hands on throughout my adolescence. I would secretly stay up way past my bedtime just to get further and further into whatever story I was currently engrossed in, and I would keep chugging away at the breakfast table the next morning. But, once I entered my freshman year, life started to become more chaotic and stressful and I found it difficult to find time to pick up a book for pleasure. Balancing school, work, extra-curriculars, and a social life, my book-reading rate diminished drastically.
   Sydney Rybicki, a sophomore at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, finds this to be a frustrating phenomenon.
   “During a semester, I typically read one or two books,” Rybicki says, “which is pitiful, compared to how much I used to read.”
    While it is easy to start reading less in college, this doesn’t have to be the case. Entering adulthood inevitably comes with a busier schedule, but don’t let that extinguish your passion. Here are seven clever methods you can use to rage against the dying of that light.

1. Make a Schedule
It may sound too simple, but it works. One skill that you’re forced to learn in college is time management. So use it. Block off time on your calendar that you can devote strictly to reading.
    This is one method Rybicki has used to reclaim reading time, and, as she explains, these sessions don’t have to be particularly long.
    “Start with a small reading goal, such as fifteen minutes a week, and work your way up,” she suggests. “Even if you never make it past those fifteen minutes a week, at least you're sticking to some sort of schedule, and you have something to look forward to each week.”

2. Carry a Book With You
From a distance, college schedules can be incredibly daunting: I’ve got class from 10-4, a meeting with my professor at 4:30, a broomball game at 5:30, and work from 7-10. And I’ve got that exam to study for. And I’ve got a paper due tomorrow. And I really need to work out. And — Ah, forget it. I’ll just drop out and become a stripper. Sure, it seems overwhelming, but in reality there are plenty of hidden moments where you could breeze through a few pages if you keep a paperback in your backpack or purse. Maybe you get to class a few minutes early, or you’re waiting in line at the dining hall, or you need a quick study break. Even when you’re on the treadmill at the rec, you can still be making your way through a couple chapters, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can be transporter into the world on the page, no matter your actual surroundings. Take it from Stephen King, who in his book On Writing describes books as “the ultimate portable magic.”

3. Go Physical
In advertising for its Kindle e-reader, Amazon loves to preach convenience: “Buy Once, Read Everywhere,” one ad exclaims. Why buy hundreds of bothersome books when you can have it all on one little tablet? Well, a lot more work goes into an e-reader than they want you to think. For one, you’ve got to keep it charged. (Just got to an exciting cliffhanger? Sorry! Looks like you’re out of battery.) On top of that, unless you have one of the glare-free versions, you can put extra stress on your eyes reading a backlit screen. Additionally, many newer versions add extra distractions with built-in apps, video players, and web browsers. You might find that motivating yourself to read is a much simpler task if you keep it strictly to print. So, if you need a little help in using your reading time to its best advantage, and in reaching that level of immersion as quickly as possible (and staying there), try going analog. Carry around a slim paperback that’s as light as an e-reader and fits easily into your back pocket. When you open it up, you’ll be more quickly transported into the story, without all the e-distractions.

4. Go Digital
Okay, maybe you love ebooks, and you just can’t give them up. Not to worry. One great feature with e-readers is compatibility. If you have a Kindle, you don’t just have a Kindle. You have Kindle on your phone. You have Kindle on your computer. So you don’t have to be curled up in your favorite armchair by the fireplace in order to enjoy the latest Grisham thriller. Got a long walk across campus? Pull out your phone and read. Stuck in a snoozefest of a lecture? Stop taking notes and open your computer’s Kindle app. As an added bonus, you can sync all of these devices so if you left off on a certain page on one, you can continue reading from there on another. If you always have your phone, then you always have your book queued up to the good part.

5. Read What You Want, Not What You Should Want
It doesn’t matter how many books you buy or how much free time you have. If you’re not truly interested in a book, you’re not going to be inspired to pick it up and start reading. So when you’re deciding which book to tackle next, make sure it’s something you’re going to be excited to read, not just something you think you should read. Sure, you’ve been meaning to get around to Infinite Jest for a while now, but maybe David Foster Wallace can wait for the summer. Pick something that will give you a nice and relaxing reprieve from the intense brainpower you have to dedicate to your studies.

6. Write Reviews 
Normally it’s difficult to find time for your book because you have too many assignments you need to complete. But what if your book was an assignment? Then you wouldn’t have an excuse to not pick it up. Talk to your school newspaper or another campus publication and see if they would be interested in someone writing reviews of new books. If they are, then you will have a deadline to finish your book, so you will be able to justify reading your book when you have other homework to do. (No, this isn’t for fun. This is my job!) Be careful, though. If reviewing isn’t really your thing, then you might actually start to view this as just another assignment, and then the pleasure factor is lost.

7. Commit to a Reading Challenge
A quick Google search of “reading challenges” unearths countless ways you can commit yourself to reading more. For instance, on Reddit you can join the 52-book challenge in which you can try to read 52 books (or any number you choose) a year. Many of the sites offer tools to help you track and visualize your progress. What makes these challenges so effective is the assistance and support of an online community. Trying to read in college can seem like an individual task, but when you can read stories and words of encouragement from others who are taking on the same challenge, suddenly you might not feel so alone.

Whatever you have to do to secure some quality time with a good book, it’ll be worth the effort. And, as with anything, the more you do it, the easier it’ll be to keep going.
    Happy reading!
  • About the Author
    Devon Shuman is currently a sophomore at Miami University with a double major in Creative Writing and Professional Writing. While he is certainly an avid reader and writer, he also identifies as an adventurous traveler, a lover of the outdoors, and a fervent supporter of the Oxford comma.

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    1. This Sydney Rybicki girl seems like she knows what she's talking about!

    2. I just read this. Wish I read it sooner, but I didn't know how to find time to read it in the first place! This helped so much!