How to Become a Lifelong Reader
A lifelong reader has an unquenchable thirst for reading.
That thirst comes from a deep drive for learning and knowledge seeking as well as fueling some unique passions and skills. The greatest resource for such a reader is books. Big or small; hardcover or soft-cover; large or small print; with or without illustrations; print or ebook; the variety is endless.
Can you imagine the life of such a reader without books?
I can only answer with a resounding no.
Growing up surrounded by books has nurtured me into a book addict & a lifelong reader. I could spend my last change on a good book or hide away from the world to finish a compelling book. I can equally spend most of my day at the library or the bookstore without feeling guilty, tired or bored. *As long as there is a prayer room/space close by*
Can you feel me?
Books form a big part of my childhood and youth. With a huge variety of books from both parents and a growing collection for the children – received as gifts from Mama & Baba and also from saving a big chunk of our monthly allowances. I attempted reading all kinds of books with my confidence in reading growing with each book.
From my simple love of books, I have traversed the world; learned about different cultures & lifestyles; nurtured my faith; improved my knowledge and understanding of different concepts; sharpened my learning skills; explored new ideas; developed a writing habit & discovered libraries and bookstores in every new place I visit.
It is therefore surprising and often shocking to hear people, especially the youth make statements such as; ”I don’t like reading”; I don’t have time to read; ”Why do I need to read”; ”I have better things to do”.
I can only say – you don’t know what you are missing. But hey, it’s never too late to become a lifelong reader. To become a reader is to enrich your mind and develop your intellect. You have nothing to lose from dipping into the deep well of knowledge, ideas, creativity and source of reflection that books provide.
Rather, you have so much to gain from the rich, soul searching and rewarding experience of digesting words and their meanings.
There is always hope to build this rewarding habit just as with other habits. Reading is an activity for all places and ages. And there is hardly any place where you cannot read; *Think queues, buses and nursing your baby*.
Here are 13 ways to get you reading, keep you reading and turn you into a lifelong reader.
1. Surround yourself with books. Fill up your physical space with books while at home, work, traveling, on vacation and when you are out & about. Make it a natural part of your environment & ensure your books are always within reach, not out of sight in a storage box or under the bed.
Make it your goal to become a lifelong reader and begin this mission with a sincere intention of becoming a better Muslim who seeks beneficial knowledge & brings this benefit to all those around. Your reading goal, through the power of your intention will guide you in choosing the books to surround yourself with.
2. Read Daily. You can begin with few pages then progress to a few chapters every day. Make it a part of your daily routine to digest a little at a time if you are still new to it. Try little slices rather than big jumbo chunks and you will develop your reading muscle over time. Set up the right reading opportunities to enhance your reading – such as break time at work or close to your bedtime. You can sync your daily Qur’an recitation schedule with your reading time.
3. Invest in some good books. Pay for some recommended titles you like or want to read. It is an investment, so you will want to take care of it and benefit from it. And since it is something you have spent your wealth on, you should remember that it is a trust for you, and questionable by Allah (SWT). So make it a worthwhile investment when making that choice.
4. Make it a family culture. Share your books with your family members (make them give their promise of safe handling) and discuss what you are reading with them with enthusiasm. Encourage them to read and always give books as gifts to your children, siblings and parents whenever the opportunity presents itself.
5. Read about topics you like. Are you a nature lover, entrepreneur, got ears for languages or learning a new self defense technique? Then look for books on those topics to read. In addition to your modules on Islamic knowledge, why not read about Ibn Taymiyyah or Bukhari or other scholars from the past, especially those of whom you are studying their texts.
6. Keep a personal collection of your favourites. Build a personal library at home or work/ uni. You can also build a virtual library via Shelfari and similar services. Make a collection of your favourite author’s titles or a series you can’t get enough of. One of my all time favourites is Umm Zakiyyah’s books. And treat your books as you would your dear friends, with care and attention.
7. Write a Review. Or simply write notes of your reflection & gems from books you read. Write out your favourite quotes or paragraphs with relatable experiences. Writing in your own words makes the reading experience easier to connect to, with deep reflections on the meanings of words & sentences.
8. Try different reading materials. From magazines, children/teen books, newspapers, business reports to dictionaries. Don’t restrict yourself. Expand your horizons with biographies, reference books and special papers that intrigue you. Over time, you will discover what moves you and makes you ponder deeply about life and living; and what sparks your creativity and help your ideas burst forth.
9. Start a reading club. Invite a few book lovers or those who may have an interest in becoming better readers, to your reading club. Have a shared vision and begin with a sincere intention that is tied to a long term goal of becoming a better person, so as to earn the pleasure of Allah.
Whether it is monthly or biweekly, try to have a focus about your main activity – whether its will be mainly for book reviews or a general discussion group. You can also share recommendations, swap books, invite authors and contributors and hold competitions. Build a readers network with a purpose.
10. Read print copies and ebooks. Try reading in different formats when possible. If you feel comfortable with both, try alternating with your reading. Hold your book and turn the pages while you can and use your kindle or another eReader for a different experience. I have tried both and still love holding my books, but cannot deny that there are times and places for kindle. I enjoy the kindle reading experience very much.
11. Read and Re-read. Once is never enough. Your library and online collections will give you an opportunity to browse through books again and again. This makes the book even more familiar till it becomes just like an old friend – easy & comfortable to be with. You will have good memories & reminders to share from the post-it notes you have inserted for reflections to little arrows, lines and dots within the print ( I prefer not to mark my books directly so I use post-it notes or pencil instead ).
12. Visit a bookstore like Borders, Waterstones or the library often for reading inspiration. Why not check out your local charity stores too for great surprises? You can also browse online for titles on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. Visit Kinokuniya (Book world in Dubai Mall) if you ever find yourself in Dubai, UAE. It is by far the biggest & most inspirational bookstore I have ever visited.
13. Connect with your favourite authors through social media. You may find them on facebook, twitter or other places you like to get social. Learn more about them, especially their reading & writing habits. Join in on their conversations and message them without getting spammy if you need personal inspiration for your reading. And let them know what you like about their books – in simple honest words.
Are you a lifelong reader or a wannabe? What do you read? Share some of your reading habits below.