Guest Posts

Guest Post: How to Improve Your Reading Experience

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Today, I’m excited to share with you a guest post from my daughter Michaela, who has recently started a blog of her own. This article is adapted from her blog article How to Improve Your Reading Experience. I know many of you are connoisseurs of Christian books, so I thought this might be helpful. Some of her suggestions can even help with your Bible reading.

How to Improve Your Reading Experience
by Michaela Lesley

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid reader. I have my mom, grandmother, and aunt to thank for this obsession, which began at a very young age. My mom would take me and my younger brothers to the library every few weeks, and it was an outing I always looked forward to. Every summer, my mom would pick out a book series and read out loud to me and my brother, Jordan, every day. My grandmother also enjoyed reading out loud to me, but because she lived in another state, she had to get creative. She would pick out books or short stories and record herself reading them on a cassette tape (it has definitely been a while since I wrote out the word “cassette”, and I almost forgot how to spell it). I would play these tapes whenever I was in my room playing, and at night while I was trying to fall asleep. My mom’s sister, author Kaye Dacus, was always the type of person to give books or Barnes & Noble gift cards as presents, and I always knew I was in for a treat whenever I got something from her in the mail around my birthday.

While I’m a few classics short to be able to consider myself a well-seasoned reader, I do consider myself good at reading. I know how to get through many books quickly, and I know how to stay in the loop when it comes to new popular books. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years to make the most out of reading:

1:– This is one of the easiest ways to keep track of your books. You can log in to Goodreads through your preferred social media account, or you can start a separate account through the site. There is also a very handy app, if you aren’t often near a desktop or laptop. On this site, you can mark books as To Read, Read, or Currently Reading. If you are currently reading a book, you can track your progress by putting what page you are on, and the site will tell you what percentage of the book you have finished. Once you have completed a book or marked it as “Read”, Goodreads gives you the options to rate the book on a Five Star scale and post a review of the book. You can also create your own “Shelves” to further organize books. I personally create a new shelf for every year, so I can keep track of how many books I’ve read that year. You can also see which books are trending, and Goodreads will recommend new books to you based on what  you have read. These are just a few of the many things you can do with the site, but these are the features I find the most useful. You can create an account here: Goodreads

2: Reading Playlists– This is something that I have been doing for a while now, and it makes reading so much more enjoyable. I use Spotify to create playlists specifically for reading. These playlists have songs and scores from some of my favorite movies. I also use Pandora to listen to the Movie Scores station. I mostly read fantasy and science-fiction, which means lots of intense fight scenes and bad guys giving monologues. I can picture the the characters and what they’re doing, and having music helps set the scene in my head. I’ve also found that I read faster when I listen to music.

3: Audiobooks and Ebooks– Thanks to being an adult, I don’t have as much time as I used to to sit down and read a book. But, there are currently 67 books on my To Read list, and I add more all the time. So, I have to find ways to get through that list somehow. My favorite non-traditional way of reading is listening to audiobooks (and yes, listening to a book counts as reading a book. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). I listen to books while doing house work, while driving, or just while doing something relaxing. I use to listen to my audiobooks. Audible is part of Amazon, and a membership is $15 a month (your first month is free). The $15 a month gives you 1 credit, which you can use to buy any audiobook. The great thing about this is that most of the books cost more than $15, so it’s a really great deal. You can listen to the books on your smart phone, tablet, or computer, even without an internet connection. Once you finish the book, you can remove it to save space on your device. However, you can re-download the book at anytime. Overdrive is a service that many libraries use, and it allows you to “borrow” audiobook and ebook files with your library card.  This way, you have the convenience without having to spend any money! Kindle (Amazon’s ebook service) and Nook (Barnes and Noble’s ebook service) are useful as well! You can either download the apps onto your phone or tablet, or you can buy the actual Nook/Kindle devices. Ebooks tend to be much cheaper than physical books, and you can take them with you in your pocket! You also have the option to read in the dark, which is helpful if you are traveling at night or if you have a roommate.

4: Book-to-Screen Adaptations– We live in a time where it seems like every popular book is getting a TV show or movie. If I see a preview for a movie or TV show that looks like it might interest me, and I see that it’s based on a book, I immediately add that book to my To Read list. That book becomes a top priority. I feel an urgency to read that book. If you make yourself finish the book before seeing the movie or watching the show, then you will have a reason to finish it quickly. It’s exciting to see a story you love come alive on the screen, and watching that movie or show can be your reward for finishing the book. On the flip side, if you have a favorite movie or TV show that you find out is actually based on a book, then it will be easy for you to get into that book. This is a great way for people who aren’t already readers to get into reading.

5:  Reading with Friends– back in 2012, all of my friends and I were reading a popular trilogy. We had seen the previews for the first movie, and we knew we wanted to read the books together and see the movie together. We would all carry the books with us to class. We would read them in the van on the way to basketball games. We would stay up late and text each other our reactions to certain chapters. We all finished those books in about a week and a half. Reading a book with friends is a very fun way to bond as a group. You can encourage each other to read, and you can discuss the story together. My best friend and I are currently reading a book series together. A new book comes out every year, and we read it together and have fun conversations about where we think the story is going plot-wise.

6: Developing Reading Habits– getting through books can be hard if you are like me and you are easily distracted. With Netflix, YouTube, and Social Media, it’s easy to waste your free time on other things. Setting a designated time to read is a good first step to prioritize reading. Many people like to read before bed, to help them unwind before they fall asleep. Having a specific place to read can also help you focus. I have stopped reading in my room, because I am more easily distracted in there. I prefer to read in my living room, on the couch, with my reading playlist playing on my phone. This specific setting helps me concentrate. If I find that I’m still getting distracted, I pull up my phone’s stopwatch, and try to see how quickly I can read one page. I hit the “lap” button every time I make it through a page. When my phone is being used for a purpose like that, I find that I don’t check Facebook or Instagram as often.

Happy reading, my friends! ❤

Michaela Lesley was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She loves to travel and wander around new places, and is always reading a new book. She is a certified Jesus Freak, and is 100% OK with that. Michaela blogs at Michaela of Baton Rouge.

Parenting, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Anything to Get the Kids to Read?

Originally published December 9, 2008.anything to read

This seems to be a new mantra that has sprung up among parents and educators over the last few years. I’ve heard it many times– said with an almost religious fervor –as though a child who doesn’t read is in the same immediate danger as a child who doesn’t eat.

And whenever I hear this statement made with such intensity, I can’t help but think, “Anything to get the kids to read? Really? Anything?” Just how far are we willing to go for the sake of reading?

Most recently I heard this statement made in response to a topic on my local talk radio station. It seems a high school English teacher assigned his class a book to read that contained a significant amount of profanity. Parents complained. The principal intervened and the assignment was terminated. Many who disagreed with the principal’s decision repeated the litany, almost in unison: “Who cares if there’s profanity? The kids were reading.

On another occasion, a Christian father and I were discussing the new movie and book, Twilight. He was planning to allow his “tween-ager” to see the movie in hopes that she would then read the books. He had made this decision, not because he thought the subject matter of the books or movie would be good for her (in fact, he indicated that he had decided to allow her to see it against his better judgment of the content), but because he wanted to do something that would get her to read more.

Now, granted, I haven’t read the book series or seen the movie, so my comment stems only from the several reviews and articles I’ve read about them, but has reading become so important even to Christian parents that they feel the need to OK a book/movie for their children that gives at least the appearance of nominal approval to vampirism?

Don’t get me wrong, I think reading is very important. I’m an avid reader, as are my children who are old enough to read independently. I guess I’m just a little perplexed that in a country with freedom of the press, where we have access to a bountiful supply of good books, both Christian and secular, that don’t contain questionable material, we are getting sucked into the mentality that the only way to get kids to read is to present them with books that contain and normalize profanity, occultism, gratuitous violence and gore, inappropriate and explicit sexuality, and any number of other things that we wouldn’t want them exposed to in real life. Why choose books like that when there are so many other better choices?

There are better ways to turn your kids into readers of good books:

  • Start early- Read to your kids from the time they are infants. Make it a normal, habitual part of life. I used to read to my babies when I was nursing them. I just read aloud from whatever book or magazine I happened to be reading at the moment myself. (That was actually a lot more interesting than reading Green Eggs and Ham or Go Dogs, Go to them a zillion times a day!)
  • Make it part of the daily routine- Just as you set aside time for brushing teeth, naps, daily devotions, homework, etc., set aside time every day to read to your children, or require your older children to spend a certain amount of time reading every day. One thing I have found that works well with my children is to occasionally allow them to stay up fifteen or twenty minutes past their bedtime, but only if they will use that time to read.
  • Make reading something to look forward to– Several years ago, I began a practice of reading my older children a book series every summer. We started with the Little House on the Prairie books, then moved to the Narnia books and others. As we near the end of the school year each May, one of the things I have them do is start looking around the library and the internet for the book series they want us to read that summer. They look forward to this each year. Finding an appropriate author or a topic your children like and having them watch for the latest book to come out is another way to build excitement.
  • Reward reading– Because I love to read so much, it is hard to for me to imagine anyone needing a reward for reading; it’s kind of a reward in itself! Some kids need a little more motivation, though. They might enjoy participating in reading contests such as Pizza Hut’s “Book It” program. Also, check out the programs at your local library. Our library sponsors a reading contest for both kids and adults every summer. It allows the reader to set a goal for the number of books he thinks he can read over the summer and then awards prizes for those who reach their goals. Or, if your kid is dying to see a movie that is based on a certain book, make seeing the movie a reward for reading the book.
  • Set an example– Be a reader yourself. Find an interesting book and curl up on the couch with your kids while they read their books.
  • Limit the electronic pacifiers– This is a good idea even if you’re not especially interested in getting your child to read more. Unlimited time in front of the TV, computer, gaming system, or hand-held video games is hazardous to your child’s intellectual health. Conversely, having your child read in order to earn “screen time” can be a good motivator.

As with everything else, it’s important to abide by Biblical principles when choosing reading materials for ourselves and our children. Reading is important, but not as important as filling our kids’ minds with Godliness.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8