You can give people books, but you can’t make ‘em read
The idea of a book club is so much better than the reality.
In a perfect world, a book club would be custom-made group of close, reliable and relaxed friends who sit in front of a roaring fire contributing witty and considered insights between sips of wine.
But that’s a far cry from the real version that starts with the best intentions and ends up notoriously hard to arrange. Not only is it impossible to find a date that suits everyone in the group, most people are too busy to read the book in time for the catch up anyway.
Most book clubs I’ve been in end up a small group of people who are committed to getting together to catch-up, with the reading and the book quickly falling to the wayside. Turns out even Oprah Winfrey’s wildly popular book club has suffered a similar fate.
It all stared back in 2002, when the talk show doyenne cancelled the club for an entire year because she was too busy to read the books. Winfrey’s club went on for another eight years (15 in total) but it’s recently been discovered that while the books she promoted enjoyed big sales, her book club didn’t actually encourage people to read more. According to an article by Sarah Fay in the The Atlantic, Winfrey’s book club did not make any difference whatsoever to America’s reading habits. As Fay wrote:
“Oprah’s Book Club makes readers aware of titles and authors they might not otherwise have heard of, it offers little opportunity to actually read and engage. Celebrity-endorsed book clubs don’t actually teach people to make time for and privilege reading within a culture that seems to value speed, visual stimulation, and activity. They endorse “books” more than they do actual reading.?”
Now this might be sad, but it’s not terribly hard to figure out why people don’t read anymore. Technology has become just as convenient and entertaining alternative to book reading for many of us. Have a look around next time you’re on public transport or waiting at an airport and you’ll see more heads bent over smartphones and iPads than books.
Plus, we all feel time poor. Many people say just looking at a book can seem like a chore, or just another thing that we should be doing. But unlike many other things on that endless list of “things we must do”, reading books is actually as relaxing as it is good for us.
But just how do you encourage people to read books these days?
One idea is to go back to basics and re-learn how to read. Primary school teachers use a range of methods to encourage their young protégés to read. Lisa Noble, a Sydney teacher who spends her days talking to seven years olds, says they start by focusing on a subject which will interest the child.
The same rule applies to adults. If you’re not a natural reader, you can encourage yourself by honing in on a topic that really takes your interest, like cooking or sport. It doesn’t have to be fiction.
Noble’s kindergarten class is also encouraged to set a regular reading time, usually 20 mins in the evenings with their parents. Most people I know who love to read do so just before sleep, but another way is to always keep your book in your bag so you can dip in and out when you find yourself with time to spare.
A final lesson taken from classroom that could help to improve reading habits is to make books part of normal conversation, like around the dinner table or out for a coffee. Kids are encouraged to do this because it improves memory and comprehension, along with improving their ability to articulate ideas. Plenty of adults I know could benefit from some of that, how about you?
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