How to Get Back on the
Reading Wagon

by Devon A. Corneal

Photo credit: Marta Nardini, Moment Collection/Getty Images

It was hard to admit that things had gone south. No one likes to acknowledge that they have a problem. After-school activities, work schedules, lazy weekends, repeated illnesses, school vacations, and family obligations had obliterated our routines and reduced us to television-watching, pajama-wearing zombies. Gone were hours of reading together, replaced by marathon sessions of HGTV. Dust covered the novels on our nightstands. We had misplaced our library books. This family of readers had gotten complacent. We had fallen off the reading wagon.

After one particularly long weekend where no one so much as read a recipe, I became determined to reclaim our traditions and turn my child’s mind back into a working body part, instead of a pile of mush. The prospect intimidated me. It seemed like such an obstacle, a burden to try to re-educate my son and myself to include reading as a central part of our daily life. It was tempting to let things slide, until I reminded myself that I had done it once, and I could do it again.

Here’s how we got back on track.

Set a Schedule
I printed out a daily schedule and put it on the refrigerator where we could all see it. In between homework, chores, and playtime, I created a dedicated twenty-minute window when my son would read to me while I made dinner. Right before bedtime was another fifteen-minute block when my husband or I would read our favorite stories to him before lights out. I find it easier to stick to things when they’re written down, and you may, too.

Explain the Importance of Reading
I had a talk with my son to explain to him why reading is important, why I enjoyed doing it with him, and why I wanted to get back in the habit of reading every day. I told him that I missed our time together and we both promised to make reading a priority.

Make Books Available
I keep books in every room of the house, in the car, and even in my purse. When it’s time to read, there are fun and engaging books on hand. It also means that when we have downtime, while running errands or waiting at the doctor’s office, we can pull out a book instead of a screen. I’m not saying that happens every time, but we’re making an effort.

Take Charge
As the adult, I made it my responsibility to remove distractions when it’s time to read. I make sure my son is focused, fed, and rested before we open a book. I put my phone away and close the computer. That way, we can both enjoy the story we’re sharing.

When We Slip, We Start Over
Life can get in the way of even the best intentions, so I try to cut myself some slack. Sometimes our schedule changes unexpectedly or someone gets sick and we miss our reading time. I remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and we start over then.

If you’ve fallen off the wagon, remember that it’s never too late to hop right back on.