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Grown-Up Reads

Tips & Advice

How to Find Time to Read When You Have Young Kids

by Jennifer Ridgway

Photo credit: Peter Cade, Stone Collection/Getty Images

The other day (during a play date, of course), a friend of mine asked me how I manage to read as much as I do. While my reading has taken a sharp decline since having my twins (by about half), I still read a lot, managing an average of a book a week. There are the obvious times to squeeze in reading when you have young kids (during naptime, before bed). Below are some other ideas for how you can fit more reading into your life, taken from my own life as well as from fellow parents.

1.  Embrace electronic reading. While I had read electronically before having kids, I really embraced it after my kids were born. Even more so, I started reading on my phone, something I never thought I would do. But, at 1:00 AM, when I was lying on the couch trying to get my daughter to fall back asleep, the phone was perfect. It allowed me to keep the lights off for her sake, and it was easy and light enough to hold in one hand. Some parents veg out to Netflix. I found my phone. As Brigitte, who has an almost 3-year-old daughter and a baby on the way, told me, phones and lightweight readers make it easier to read while pumping, breastfeeding, and commuting on public transportation (hold the pole with one hand, your device with the other).

2.  Change your reading material. Most of us can no longer sit and just read uninterrupted for long periods of time. Rather than trying to read something very literary, which requires longer periods of focused attention, think about reading something that’s easier to dip in and out of. You may find that you are more willing to pick up a more commercial read, a collection of essays or short stories, or a magazine when you only have 15 minutes. Deanna, who has a preschooler, belongs to a graphic novels book club. She says, “Unlike other book clubs, I can actually keep up with the reading.”

3.  Listen to audiobooks. Audiobooks are great! You can listen while you walk, run, cook, fold laundry, feed an infant, knit, etc. I also listened to audiobooks during feeding time when my twins were infants. The whole family can listen to audiobooks if you choose a family friendly book (think road trips), making it a shared experience. This will give you the opportunity to discuss the book as family too. Here are a few recommendations to get you started.

4.  Establish a quiet, family reading time. This may be easier for parents who have children that are slightly older and can read on their own, but I’m thinking about how to do this in my house, even for 10 minutes a week. You can set a time, whether it’s weekly or daily, when everyone sits with his or her own books and reads. This is a great way to model reading for your children. I would suggest that parents read a physical book or magazine during this time, if only so your kids realize that it is indeed a book. For me, with 3-year-olds, it would mean having my twins look at picture books while I read.

5.  Unplug. My friend Robin, a mother to 3-year-old twins and a newborn, “only read[s] on Shabbat. Keeping Shabbat helps with reading because I shut off the TV/internet for 24 hours and all that’s left (besides socializing) is reading.” Mandy, mother of two, noted that she took a big step back from social media and replaced that time with reading. Don’t allow yourself to fall into mindless television all the time, either! Pick up a book rather than the remote. And for those who do use a reader that is internet-enabled, turn it to airplane mode so you aren’t even tempted to flip over to Facebook or your email.

6.  Carry a book with you. Susie, whose children are five and seven, always has a book with her. This can be a physical or electronic book. Think of how many times you get caught waiting during the day: the carpool lane, McDonald’s, while your kids play, at the doctor’s office. Even five minutes here and there adds up.

Good luck and happy reading!