When was the last time you read a book not for class, but for yourself?
As we try to keep up with the never-ending to-do lists of college life, old pastimes can fall by the wayside. But, maybe you miss the thrill of losing yourself in a different fictional world each week, or, if you never got into reading, maybe you’re worried you missed your chance.
With studies finding benefits including improved memory, increased empathy and reduced stress, there are plenty of reasons to start picking up books outside of class. Even with final’s on the horizon, you can still read for fun if you’re in college—and it’s never too late to start.
Here are five tips for how to keep reading for pleasure in college:
Listen to audiobooks (especially during your commute to class.)
Now, some purists out there might turn their nose up at this, but hear me out: audiobooks get the job done. Several studies have found no difference in comprehension between audiobooks and traditional reading.
Audiobooks allow you to ease yourself back into reading without making drastic changes to your busy schedule.
How to activate your Poudre Valley Library card, according to the Morgan Library:
Log in to RamWeb
From the dropdown menu, click on “Records” and select “Manage My Student Record”
Select “Library Options” and check the box to opt-in to the program. Don’t forget to press “Submit!”
Within 24 hours, your RamCard will be fully functional as a PRPLD library card. Present your RamCard at any PRPLD branch library or log in to www.poudrelibraries.org by entering all 10 digits of your RamCard ID number.
As a Colorado State University student, your RamCard doubles as a Poudre River Public Library card, allowing you to check out audiobooks for free, according to the Morgan Library. Once you opt-in through RamWeb, you’ll be able to download books directly to your phone so you can listen while you walk, bike or drive to class.
Start reading before bed (no, not your Twitter feed.)
Almost everyone does it: we say we’re going to sleep when, really, we’re going to lie in bed for another hour, scrolling through social media. There’s a time and place for your smartphone, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, bedtime isn’t one of them. The blue light from your smartphone suppresses melatonin, which stimulates your brain, and can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, which makes falling asleep difficult.
Reading before bed is another great way to build a bookish habit without rearranging your entire schedule. It’s also better for your brain. According to one study by the University of Sussex, even reading for just six minutes eases the tension of stress in the human body. So, you don’t have to set aside too much time in the evening to wind down with a book—though, any book lover will tell you there are no guarantees about what cliff hangers and page-turners will do to your beauty sleep.
Mix up your genres (and mediums.)
When you imagine leisure reading, maybe you picture novels like Harry Potter— but what about the latest memoir by your favorite comedian, or that collection of poetry you’ve seen all over Instagram? If you want to start reading, it’s important you choose the books you want to read, regardless of what genre they are.
Struggling with where to start? Consider choosing a different medium, too, like a graphic novel. Graphic novels are quick reads, blending visual storytelling with the narrative elements of a novel.
No matter what you read, start out with short books. If the first book you check out from the library is War and Peace, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. When starting to leisure read again, short books make the task of reading more manageable. Plus, they’re easy to carry, so you’re more likely to crack them open on the go.
It’s dangerous to go alone! (Track what you read.)
Setting goals and keeping track of what you read helps keep you accountable, and it also gives you a greater sense of accomplishment than finishing the book alone.
Websites like Goodreads allow you to manage all the books you read and want to read, as well as set yearly challenges to hold yourself to specific goals. You can always adjust your goals to make them more realistic as the year goes on, or increase them to make them more ambitious if you’re ahead of schedule.
Don’t read just because of the goals you set; set goals so that you encourage yourself to read because you want to.
Remember—it’s supposed to be fun.
The last thing anyone needs is another item to add to their to-do list. If you want to start reading for fun, you have to treat it like that: fun.
Odds are, you don’t treat your other leisure activities like chores. Do you always agonize over whether or not you have time to binge Netflix? Let reading become something you look forward to, like the next episode of Game of Thrones.
Always remember the 100-page rule: if it doesn’t grab you in the first 100 pages, put down the book and move on. You don’t owe a bad book your attention. Plus, there’s no reading quiz at the end.
If it takes a while to get into a regular reading routine, don’t give up. Forming new habits takes time—anywhere from 18 to 254 days, according to one study from the European Journal of Social Psychology.
Who knows? You might just find your new favorite book. But first, you have to keep reading.