January 6

Book tips

Ancora Imparo (Yet I am Learning), Homeschool, Tips and Tricks


I recently told you that I read around 35 books in 2011. I’m sure when some of you saw that number you thought “Wowzers! 35 books? That’s amazing!”. Some of you thought, “That’s it? You lazy sack. What have you been doing all day long?”. The rest of you thought, “Hey that’s right about what I read too.”
This post is for those of you who think I’m awesome and want to know my secret.
1. Audiobooks. Books on CD are an absolute life saver. I’m pretty sure that a fair number of you think that listening to audiobooks is somehow cheating. It’s not. Everyone learns in different ways. I happen to feel that auditory learning is very effective with me. I find that I miss much less when I listen to books than when I’m reading the traditional way. Often I find that after a while my eyes will start to glaze over and I’ll realize I can’t remember anything the last several paragraphs said. In fact, when reading a book the traditional way, I basically have to pretend that I’m listening to a lecture for it to sink in (sometimes I pretend I’m the one giving the lecture and I’m a world renowned historian who’s class rooms are always packed). Ok. Now you think I’m lame. Whatever, most of you knew that anyway ūüôā
I rarely listen to music anymore. When I’m doing chores I hook my computer in to the speakers in the kitchen and listen to books. When something really makes an impression on me, I pause the book and then either write it down or, if Matt is home, I talk my thoughts out with him. Occasionally (more than they would like, I’m sure) I will email my sisters and say “You will not believe this…” or “Did you know…” I listen to books while I clean, while I organize, while I drive, on my runs and any time I am doing something tedious that doesn’t require the thinking part of my brain. I can cook and fold laundry without thinking. I don’t allow that time to go to waste and I almost never dread the work since I am fully engaged in something else at the same time.
Most libraries have a wonderful selection of audiobooks (which is nice because they are usually very expensive). I also have a membership to Audible.com (Christmas present).
Audiobooks also makes for some great teaching moments and conversations with the children when they hear what I am listening to and ask about it.
2. Overdrive.com. This is a fabulous resource. With your local library card, you can join and borrow audiobooks and ebooks. You have a certain amount of time to finish them, but that is no different from any other library book. I don’t have to spend the money on a book I may or may not like well enough to keep and I also don’t have to brave the library with my 18 month old and four year old boys (always an adventure).
3. Read multiple books at a time. Don’t be afraid to read more than one book at a time. Have you ever started a book that, for whatever reason, you lost interest in half way through? No problem. Set it aside and start another. Just don’t put it away unless you don’t plan on finishing it (it’s totally ok if you don’t, but if you want to finish, keep it out so you are always reminded of it). I have one book that I got about 400 pages into and just needed a break from it. It’s sitting on my bedside table. 200 pages to go. I want to finish. I will finish. Maybe next month. I’m in well into three books right now and I have juggled up to five at a time (not including the scriptures which I am always reading). I promise it won’t confuse you or mix you up. The worse that will happen is that you will not be able to decide which one is more worthy of your attention at the moment. For example, I couldn’t fit the main book I was reading in my purse when I went to the doctor’s. But I had my eReader with me, so while I was waiting I started a new one. Both are engaging and packed with information. So now when I sit down to read I am always torn as to which one I should pick up.
4. Alternate long and short books. 900 page monstrosities can be wonderful reading material, but if that is all you are reading, you will hardly feel like you are making any progress. Making it through a massive book is a right of passage, but sometimes you also need some quick wins. There is nothing wrong with a 100 page book. There are countless short books out there that are priceless and well worth their weight in gold.
5. Gutenberg.org. Hundreds of thousands of books available for free through Gutenberg.org, Amazon.com Kindle store and even iTunes. There are free books for every subject and for every interest and building a library this large full of the very same physical books will cost a fortune. Get an eReader or eReader app on your smart phone or computer and take advantage of these wonderful treasures! ¬†The entire works of Shakespeare, Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, and countless more. No one with a computer ever has to say they can’t read because books are too expensive. I admit reading full books on your computer isn’t fun. I’m an advocate for eReaders. The price is going down all the time and these free books work on all of them.
6. Keep books everywhere. Keep one in your purse for times when you are running errands and have to wait for some reason (a small, skinny one that will easily fit). Keep one in each bathroom. Keep a book by the bedside table so that if you forget to bring your main book upstairs with you, you don’t have to go get it. I keep books everywhere and they are lying on almost every flat surface in my house. I have inadvertently gotten into the habit of just taking my book with me whenever I leave a room.
7. Have a “spot”. I have my very own bookcase. Just for my books. Not everyone needs a bookcase (especially if you use the library a lot), but you should have one spot where you keep your books. The books you really want to read that are mostly for you. When I’m done with a book I usually move it out of my bookcase into one of the family bookcases so that I always know where to go when I want something to read. A good old fashioned book bag or backpack would work really well for this.
8. Have a “spot” part deux. Have a favorite spot where you like to read. This isn’t to say that you can’t read anywhere you want to, but have a spot that when you sit down, your brain says “I should read, that’s what I’m supposed to do in this spot”. I have a comfortable chair in my great room, situated right next to my bookcase. When I plop my rump down to rest, I reach over and grab whatever book is lying on the bookcase. Most of the time it’s one of the books I’m juggling at the moment. So I just pick it up and start where I left off.
9. Invest in bookmarks. I hate using a corner ripped off of a piece of junk mail for a bookmark. It works perfectly fine, but there is something about using an actual bookmark that is really nice and luxurious. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to even be a bookmark! Matt uses the cover to an old ferry ticket book from where he grew up. I use the MormonAd post cards that come in the New Era magazine. They don’t even have to cost money. Print some out on card stock or better yet, grab a stack of the free ones at the library. Whatever you use, let it be something permanent that when you are done, you can put back in your “bookmark spot”. You will never have to look for a piece of scrap paper to use ever again.
10. Read out loud. This kind of goes along with audiobooks. You are never too old to be read to. Matt and I both read books to the kids and to the family. Matt reads to me, sometimes I read to him (but I’m not as good as it). We usually have one book that Matt is reading to the kids or the family and one book that he will read to me after the kids go to bed. We have a whole separate area for books that he and I both want to read. Those are what he reads to me from. It is by far my favorite pass time. Night time chores are much more enjoyable as well.
11. ¬†Get out of your comfort zone.¬† Read things that are hard and things that were written a long time ago. ¬†So what if it takes you a long time to get through something. ¬†That’s why you read multiple things at a time; you can get quick wins while you are also taking several months to get read the unabridged Les Miserables. ¬†Get lost in the language and discover why they are called “classics”. ¬†I remember when I read 1984 and realized what “Big Brother” came from and what it really meant. ¬†Try new genres. ¬†You may want to try audiobooks for when you branch out at first, you can get through audiobooks faster than reading them and you may end up better understanding a difficult manner of speaking in that format.
12. Don’t finish books you don’t want to finish.¬†If you get part way through a book and you find that you are dreading opening it, put it away. ¬†Don’t waste your time. ¬†Come back to it in a few years if you want to. ¬†I haven’t touched Anna Karenina in over six¬†years¬†and¬†I’ll have to start at the beginning when/if I do pick it up again. ¬†Though I’ve read a lot since then and I may even be able to understand it now. ¬†Maybe I’ll put it on my 2013 list. ¬†I’m also perfectly comfortable not picking it up again.
13. Have a favorite fall back.¬† Whenever life is really busy and overwhelming I pick up These is my Words. ¬†I am in the habit of reading a lot, but sometimes I can’t handle any more information (like during this last Christmas). ¬†I have read this so many times I practically know it by heart so I read the beginning, skip the story lines of the characters I hate and the parts that make me cry. ¬†After three days of reading Jack and Sarah (which I pretend is really Matt and Courtney) I was ready to face the world again.
14. Don’t be afraid to read for pleasure. ¬†Reading is a pass time. ¬†It’s supposed to be enjoyable. ¬†There is a reason why “curling up with a good book” is supposed to be one of the best things ever. ¬†Don’t just¬†read for school and don’t just¬†read to learn new things. ¬†Read for fun. ¬†Reading is fun. ¬†Sometimes you have to read things for school, for work or for church, but don’t only read things that you have¬†to read. ¬†To be fair, it’s useful that for me, reading for learning and reading for pleasure is one in the same, (if you are also like that, it’s certainly something to be thankful for) but I didn’t start out that way. ¬†I didn’t learn to enjoy reading until I was 20 years old and then it took another eight or nine years to enjoy the learning process and prefer it over television. ¬†Now I would rather read than do almost anything else (audiobooks help make it so that I’m not completely useless during the day).
What have you found that makes reading easier?

About the author 

Courtney Ahroon

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  • I love overdrive audiobooks! They are very well done and I can get them right on my iphone. I carry it in my back pocket while I’m cooking or cleaning and even listen to it when I’m in the car. I know some think it’s cheating, but I’d rather catch 70-80% of a book than none at all! I also listen to some with my kids- they love the little house on the prarie series and sure saves my voice. Great tips!


  • I miss the availability of so many free and cheap books in English, but I’m loving listening to podcasts and ted talks on my computer or phone. It’s not helping me read more, but I love folding laundry now. ūüôā
    And #12 is something I live by.


  • I’ll never forget when I went from a person who thought audio books were lame and cheating, to a person who knows they’re incredible. It was about 10 years ago. We had read in Louis L’Amour’s Education Of A Wandering Man how he (L’Amour) kept a list of every book he had read each year of his adult life. He was an incredibly well self-educated man. So we decided to do the same thing. Since that time, I’ve faithfully kept “finished books” lists for each individual in our home, as well as a yearly list of books we’ve read together as a family. Everyone is now trained and knows that as soon as they finish a book, they either set the book directly on my school binder (where I keep all my homeschool lists and stuff) or go in the classics section, and write it in their themselves on their own personal list.
    Well, I was having a conversation with a friend one day about how cool it is to be able to look and see how many, and which books each person has read every year, and she was considering starting the practice herself for her family. But she was lamenting the fact that she couldn’t get her 8 year-old son to ever sit down and read an actual paper book. She said that she loves books on CD though. I mentioned that it really wasn’t the same thing, and I thought it somehow didn’t quite cut it. Then she mentioned that his favorites are the unabridged Shakespeare plays on CD that are always playing around her house all day (she loves Shakespeare), and how her son absolutely LOVED them now too. He would quote them all the time, and totally understood them. It was at that moment that I realized that if an 8 year-old could exercise their brain muscles enough through audio books to be fluent in Shakespeare (something I STILL am working on!) then obviously there’s something there! So what if he wouldn’t sit still long enough to hold a book in his hand yet, he was still learning, and he’ll get there someday at his own pace.
    I personally still much prefer regular old books for myself (except for long road trips -we always have books on CD for long drives), but that experience was a major paradigm shift for me, and now we are BIG audio book fans. In fact, since Noah (5), is only half-way through the reading system we use, but loves to “read”, and he’s also the child that requires several hours of alone time each day to be happy when he’s around the rest of us, he keeps a CD player in his room and plays in there listening to books on CD for hours at a time, every single day! He’s already gone through all the Redwall books, Fablehaven, and is about to start the Percy Jackson series on CD as soon as I pick them up from the library today. He LOVES that he gets to “read” books just like the rest of us, it saves my voice, he gets his alone time that he needs to feel peaceful, and he’s enjoying tons of books that he otherwise would have to wait to enjoy until he’s old enough to read them on his own. I’m sure it’s also a contributing factor to why he always disarms people in Primary with his vocabulary that equals that of an adult. I LOVE AUDIO BOOKS NOW!!!!!!!


  • I received a Kindle for Christmas and have collected a lot of free books. It will take quite awhile before I have them all read. Shh, don’t tell anyone. I bought a certain-sized purse just so my Kindle would fit inside. Lol ūüôā


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