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A Book A Month: How to Make Time for Reading and Where to Get Started

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If you’re searching for something more in your everyday high school routine, reading may be just the ticket. Though you might feel like you don’t have time to read recreationally on a regular basis, there are some simple ways to make room in your busy schedule for a little precious reading time each day.


Reading outside your classroom assignments will build your base of knowledge, offer broader perspectives of important issues, and increase your appreciation for diverse cultures and customs from around the world. Reading can also build your vocabulary and challenge you to consider conflicting viewpoints. In fact, reading might be the single most important thing you can do with just 20 minutes a day to grow as a person, a student, and a community member.


In this post, we’ll discuss how to integrate independent reading into your daily life and some of our favorite, most eye-opening and provocative reads to pique your interest. To learn more about how to nurture a reading habit, keep reading (pun intended!).


How to Make Time for Reading

Making time for independent reading is usually the biggest obstacle to forming the reading habit. It’s easy to see how busy you are and to assume that there’s no room for any reading past the required texts you read for school.


In reality, though, your day is filled with spare minutes. Waiting at the bus stop. Falling asleep at night. Standing in line at the pharmacy. Sitting at the beginning of class before your teacher begins. There are dozens upon dozens of free minutes in your day, and they can really add up if you make reading an easy option. But how do you that?


First of all, you need to carry your book everywhere. This is, of course, assuming that you’re reading a physical book. It’s even easier if you’re using an e-reader or an app on your phone. If that’s the case, you’ll probably always have it with you, but you should check about the rules regarding electronics in your school. Some schools will confiscate a phone or tablet if you have it out during class time, even if you’re only reading a book while you wait for your teacher to begin. Though it may be less convenient, sometimes physical books are logistically an easier choice.


Another way to free up time for independent reading is to reduce the time you spend browsing the Internet or social media. Try turning off your Wi-Fi at a certain time each night or making a deal with yourself that you won’t use the Internet while you’re in bed. Instead, use those times to read.


Give these tips a try over the next week and see if you’re able to sneak in 20 minutes of independent reading time a day. We bet you’ll be surprised just how much you can read by making only slight adjustments to your daily routine.


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What to Read?

Sometimes choosing what to read can take up just as much time as actually reading. To simplify the process for you, we’ve come up with five great options to get the ball rolling. Read through some insightful and entertaining reading choices below and then choose the one that interests you most. With reading material that is both engaging and insightful or educational, you’re likely to find that your problem is not picking up your book, but rather putting it down.


1. Keep Up On Current Events With The Newspaper

Most people get their news online these days in short snippets or headlines flying across social media, but there’s something to be said for paper and even online newspapers. Browsing through an entire newspaper rather than just skimming the headlines on a website will provide you with thought-provoking insights and conversation fodder. You’ll be better versed in both local and world issues, and you’re likely to learn about issues that you didn’t even know existed.


Keep in mind, though, that most newspapers are written with some kind of slant. There is no single, completely objective newspaper because journalists are, after all, human. To get a truly well-rounded perspective, consider switching the newspapers you read on a daily or weekly basis. This way, you’ll get a variety of perspectives. You may find that certain news outlets are better aligned with your own beliefs and will be naturally more engaging for you. That’s great, but try to cross-reference issues with insights from other publications to round out your knowledge of important issues.


2. Question Societal Norms with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This true-life memoir is about an eccentric and sometimes neglectful upbringing in a family that somehow manages to be as remarkably brilliant and charismatic as it is dysfunctional. Walls’ story of resilience and bucking the norms of society is bound to captivate you as you follow the story of how she and her siblings manage to succeed both in spite of and because of their exceptionally unique circumstances.


Read this book (before you see the movie!) if you enjoy stories of overcoming adversity along with quirky families and the pain that sometimes comes with unconditional love. Ever wondered where the line lies between unconventional and extreme? You might find the answer here.


3. Gain Some Cultural Insight from Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

This collection of short stories is bound to open your eyes to the overlaps and clashes between American and Indian culture if you’ve never experienced it before. Each story is set in America and features elements of both American and Indian culture, highlighting the delicate balancing act of honoring both. The short, engaging stories are perfect for smaller periods of reading time and the way that Lahiri deftly weaves captivating stories with beautiful language makes it easy to see why this book received a Pulitzer Prize.


Read this book if you want to gain cultural insight and increased appreciation for the balancing act of honoring two cultures at once.


4. Think About the Greater Meaning of Life With A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving 

If you’ve seen the movie Simon Birch, this book will sound familiar, but the movie does not share the name because the story lines are actually quite different. In fact, Irving was so devoted to his original novel that he requested the movie not share the name, as he believed a movie could not do justice to his story.


If you’re worried that having seen the movie will ruin the book for you, no need. While Simon Birch shares some plot elements with the novel, it also misses many of the bigger concepts that you’ll enjoy in the book. Here, you’ll read a coming of age story that incorporates deep questions about redemption, fate, and our greater purpose in the world.


Read this book if you have a soft spot for heartbreaking heroes, or have ever wondered if there’s a bigger meaning to your life. 


5. Gain Mental Health Insights from She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

This tale is part coming-of-age, part love story, part mental health battle. It brings together so many of the common themes of growing up and the struggles of life as a young adult that you’re bound to find something you can relate to in this carefully woven odyssey.


Wally Lamb skillfully combines humor and insight to bring his main character, Dolores Price, to life as she struggles to define herself. Read this book if you’ve wondered what defines you as you approach adulthood. Dolores will no doubt help you figure it out.


Reading is a great way to broaden your horizons, escape from reality, build vocabulary, and gain new perspectives. By making just a small amount of time available for reading each day, you’ll undoubtedly reap major rewards.


For more ideas about making time for reading or about gaining outside perspective as you grow towards adulthood, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.