How to Build a Life Around Books (Again)

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I recently confessed that not too long ago I had to re-learn how to be a reader. Yep, as a grown-up I had to re-learn something that is a huge emphasis for school-age kids. Shocking and strange, I know. The truth is, I love books and I used to read all the time. I got a freakin' degree in books, people!

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As a kid I remember getting in trouble for prioritizing reading over homework. It got to a point where I had to come home from school and hand over my book first thing. It was returned to me only after my homework was complete -- a source of much frustration! I was definitely one of those read-under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight types.

So what happened? About eight years ago, after I had Nia and all my attention turned to keeping a small human alive, my reading appetite changed. Or maybe it was sleep deprivation... I still read, but it was shorter snippets of time and it was parenting books (yep, I'm one of those). I couldn't seem to get through books for my own pleasure anymore. Around this same time I discovered the joys of streaming Netflix and smart phones and it was all over for me and books. 

From Day 1 Joe and I read to Nia. (I mean that quite literally: when she was in my belly, one of us read On The Day You Were Born aloud nearly every day.) And after she was earthside we continued to read to her (early on I read The Read Aloud Handbook and was sold on the numerous benefits of reading aloud to children, whether they be 18 days old or 18 years old!) Soon that seemed to be all the reading I was doing: kid books. I love kid books, don't get me wrong, but they weren't really feeding the side of me that used to eat books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

I tried to be a reader again. I really did.

I recalled loving to reading in bed. But co-sleeping, I quickly discovered, made that hard. As many nursing mamas can relate, I'm sure, I often just fell asleep when my child did and I rarely (ok, more like never) got back to turning the light on for Me Time. The few times I did manage to stay awake to read, I fell asleep within a paragraph or two, and each night I was able to pick up my book, I seemed to be re-reading the same two paragraphs over again before conking out. It was a torture. I was getting none of the good feelings I remembered from being "a reader."

And then one day I heard an interview with the woman behind the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog, Anne Bogel. This woman manages to not only be a parent but to also read literally hundreds of books each year and blog mini reviews for each book. I am in awe of her. So when I heard her interviewed on the Read Aloud Revival podcast on the topic of "Cultivating a Reading Life" all sorts of bells and whistles started going off for me. Ding, ding, ding! Yes, please! How can I cultivate a reading life, too?

I'll boil down the essence of how Anne does it for you because it really, really helped me to have such simple things spelled out. 

1. Always carry a book with you. It can be a Kindle or a paperback, it doesn't matter. Just have it with you so when you normally would reach for Facebook or Instagram or whatever to kill time, you read instead. This is standing in line at the DMV, or standing beside your tea kettle waiting for the water to boil. 

2. Have more than one book going at a time. If you climb in bed to read and realize your book is in the living room, you are probably not going to go get it. So, have a bedroom book, a living room book, a purse book. Maybe you even need a bathroom book. I won't judge.

3. Be willing to walk away from a dud. Life's too short and there are way too many books out there to get bogged down by one that isn't grabbing you. 

4. Audio books are books, too. It doesn't really matter how you get books into your head, whether it is through your eyes or through your ears. 

5. Make time for books. Make reading/listening a priority over scrolling/watching. Even if it is just 20 minutes.

So I did all these things, and I also joined a Book Club. I decided to build my life around books (again). And it's been wonderful! I feel like I have more space in my day when I spend a little of it reading. It also models to my child that I think books are valuable -- and not just the kid books Joe and I read to her. 

(I know some people wonder how we make reading aloud to Nia a priority. Like, when do we specifically do it since we don't homeschool and we're apart most of the day? We read to her at least twice a day -- 15 minutes in the morning when she wakes up and 20-40 minutes at bedtime. Now that she's listening to audio books on her own we have to work in our read alouds a bit more deliberately (she often likes to listen to them in the morning instead of to me). So, yesterday, as an example, she and I read aloud for 10 minutes in a quiet corner of the coffee shop between school and home. Who doesn't love gelato, tea, and a good story?)

I decided a few months ago to keep track of our family's reading (because there is nothing that makes me feel better in the midst of a project than to see progress!). So if you are like I was just a year ago and need a little literary inspiration, here are the books my family consumed this winter. A is me, J is Joe, and N is Nia (second grade). 


Tales of the City (A)

Fates & Furies (A)

The Penderwicks (A&N)

Babymouse: Skater Girl (N)

Babymouse: Puppy Love (N)

Camp Babymouse (N)

Harry Potter Book 3 (J&N)

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (J)



Babymouse: The Musical (N)

A Homemade Life (A)

The Sandcastle Girls (A)

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (Wingfeather Saga) (N - audio)

The High King (J&N)

Dune (J)

We Were Liars (A)

The Princess Academy (A&N)

Station Eleven (A)

Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon (N)

Babymouse: Burns Rubber (N)

The Monster in the Hallows (Wingfeather Saga) (N - audio)



North! Or Be Eaten!  (Wingfeather Saga) (N - audio)

Defending Jacob (A)

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (A)

The Warden & The Wolf (Wingfeather Saga) (N - audio)

Maybe in Another Life (A)

Dragon Rider (N - audio)

Caddie Woodlawn (N - audio)

You may have noticed that Nia didn't finish a (non-audio) book in March. That's because she was cruising through Babymouse books so fast we decided to move her up to something a bit more challenging. She's in the midst of a chapter book that she chips away at each night after dinner. She also regularly reads picture books, but I haven't been tracking those. Clearing from the looks of the March list, audio books are her real love right now. She listens in bed, in the car, at the kitchen table...

I'd love to hear from you! At the bottom of this post you can click the heart to send me some anonymous love, or you can join the convo by leaving a comment, which would be awesome! What books are you or your family reading these days? Any book-related goals for April? Have you ever had to re-remember how to be a reader? What are your reading habits?

Blogged while listening to "Glass Animals" by Toes. 54 degrees. Sunny with southwest winds.