How to read more books as a busy parent

Alice | Letters to my DaughterBlog, Parenting & Family, Role ModelsLeave a Comment

I love reading but, since becoming a mum, I’ve struggled to find the time. I realised recently that I’d read just 1 book in 2.5 years… and it was about potty training… joy.

Of course I’ve read countless children’s books, over and over again, but they don’t count. (Is there a record for the number of times one person has red ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ out loud?)

Books are such wonderful things. They contain whole worlds within their pages, conjured by magical combinations of words that can also ignite powerful emotions, tears and laughter. They allow you to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while and experience things you might never get the chance to in real life. I lived in books growing up and I credit them with broadening my outlook on life, as well as my vocabulary!

I would love Dee to enjoy books as much as I do, but I’m astutely aware that I should be leading by example. All the time she sees me buried in my phone or computer instead of a book, I’m sending her the message that phones are important. They are, to a degree, but so are books. I want her to see me read more, and besides that, I really want to read more for myself!

I suspect I’m not the only parent that feels this way, so I’ve come up with some ideas about how to read more as a busy parent. I’ve implemented some of these already and others are still on the to do list:

This post contains affiliate links, so if you purchase through here I may get a small commission but the price you pay won’t be any higher than going direct

Grab a book for yourself at the library

If, like me, you’re often popping to the library to refresh your child’s book selection (to both broaden their literary horizons and save yourself from repetition induced insanity), then this one is for you. Have a quick browse of the ‘grown up’ shelves and choose a book for yourself to add to the teetering pile on the library counter.

Even if you already have a stack of books to read at home, the time limit to return the book to the library (although you can renew) is an added incentive to read it NOW, rather than putting it off until that magical, illusive moment “when I have time”.

Try and remember to take it back on time, or renew it (our library has an online renewal system which makes it easy, I’m sure most will have something similar) to avoid the staggering library fines (sarcasm – ours is about 6p per day).

Quick reads are a revelation

So, I did that first suggestion up there ^^^ and got a book for myself from the library. The book I chose was The Cave by Kate Mosse (author of Labyrinth & Sepulchre), which is a ‘quick read’. Quick reads, or ‘short reads’ are exactly what they sound like, they are short book that you can read pretty quickly.

Not only does this mean that they are considerably more achievable to finish, but they’re also less daunting. On a practical level, they’re lighter and more comfortable to hold with one hand if your other one is busy cuddling a small person, and often cheaper to buy if the library is too much effort.

I managed to read The Cave in about a week or two of stolen 15-20 minute sessions here and there before bed, first thing in the morning, during naptime, while dinner was cooking… It probably took about 2 hours in total, and because it was a short story, it didn’t have a million plot lines to keep track of so was easy to pick up and put down. Having not read a full work of fiction in over 2 years, it was an easy route back into reading and I’d definitely recommend trying them.

Click on this link to browse some quick reads on Amazon. If you see something you fancy, you might even have it in your hands by tomorrow…

Quick Reads

Prioritise your book over your phone…sometimes

It’s easy to reach for your phone when you have a spare five minutes, but I realised that before smart phones, I probably would have reached for a book at these times.

Of course, phones are often a vital part of our existence these days, especially for busy parents, so I’m not condemning their use at all. But we all have those moments when we find ourselves aimlessly scrolling through Facebook to pass the time.

A smart phone lies next to a book in which two pages are folded loosely over into the centre to form a heart shape

Now I try to be mindful of this, and make sure to pick up a book sometimes if I really don’t need to be on my phone at the moment. To make this successful, it’s helpful to…

Stash books everywhere!

Make it easy to read. If you’re downstairs on the sofa and your book is upstairs in your bedside table drawer, you’re unlikely to bother going upstairs to fetch it. Even if you do, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get distracted on the way by a pile of washing or a bin that needs emptying, and before you know it, the moment will have passed.

On your bedside table, on the coffee table, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the car, in your bag. Wherever you can stash a book for when you might be able to snatch some time to read, do!

…Next to some flowers and an apple…you know, the usual places parents might store books…

Of course, for this to work it’s good to…

Have more than one on the go

OK, I know this might be sacrilege to some. Indeed, in the height of my reading days, I refused to start another book until I’d finished the one I was reading – even if that book was awful, I would commit to finishing every single one.

Now I’m a parent…

Meme: Ain't nobody got time for that

Having more than one on the go allows you to be more flexible with your reading. It also makes it easier to give up on one if you’re not enjoying it because you know you’ve got another to fall back on rather than having to choose and start a brand new book. (I often find this the hardest part about reading – once I’m in, I’m in, but getting started takes some effort).

At the moment I’m reading:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

I’ll tell you what they’re like when I’ve finally finished them!!

Carve out space in your week for family reading time

I’ve seen this idea mentioned on other blogs and really love the idea.

My husband isn’t a great reader, but I know there are books he would like to read eventually. D is only 2.5 so can’t read on her own yet, but she does love looking at books (and could probably recite Bear Hunt word for word now to be honest!)

My rose-tinted vision of family reading time is everyone sitting around together reading their own books in blissful, calm, companionable silence. In reality, with a toddler, I’m pretty much certain this won’t work. I will almost definitely introduce it when D is a bit older though, and perhaps in the meantime we can do our own version which will probably be to spend a bit more dedicated, quality time reading children’s books together as a family.

A toddler sits on their parent's lap reading a book

E-books and e-readers

I’ve referred mainly to physical, hard copy books in each of these suggestions because I do love to feel a book in my hands and flick through the pages. I love the smell of new books and old books and the sound the pages make as they turn. It’s also easier to model enjoyment of reading  when it’s clear you’re reading a book, rather than scrolling through yet another device with a screen – even if that screen does convey the full works of Jane Austen.

E-readers and reading apps can’t be discounted though. I think part of the battle here is getting back into the habit of reading so it becomes a part of your life again, and is at the forefront of your mind. If the way to do that is to have the Kindle app on your phone, or to carry an e-reader with you wherever you go then absolutely do it!

Just the fact that you’re reading books, by whatever method, will inspire you to talk about books and reading more, and that passion won’t go unnoticed by your children.


Audio books

I got a year’s Audible subscription while I was pregnant because even then, I was worrying about my lack of reading with work being so busy getting ready for maternity leave.

It was a revelation. (I have a lot of revelations!)

You know one of the jobs I hate most? Washing up. I loathe it. I don’t do it unless I absolutely have to. But stick an audio book on, don the rubber gloves, and I don’t notice that I’m doing it. I get so lost in the story that I plod through the washing up happily and feel a sense of fulfilment that I’ve absorbed some more wonderful storytelling AND sorted the kitchen. It’s time no longer wasted on something boring.

In the car is another great time to listen to audio books and, really, any time your hands aren’t free. You can get CDs and tapes if you prefer to go old school in the car – these are often available in libraries too.

Another thing I love about audio books is that D hears them too and is exposed to all these wonderful words and rich vocabulary which I don’t often get to use in our every day life.

Some apps have a sleep timer so you can even put it on while you drift off to sleep and know that it won’t take forever to find your place again when you wake up again 8 hours later (Jokes! I mean 3 hours…)

So far I’ve listened to

  • His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (which I’d been wanting to read for AAGES and never got round to it)
  • Beautiful Creatures trilogy by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (got to love a bit of YA fiction, and this has got everything from vampires to witches in it)
  • The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas (Bawdy period novel set in 1870 London with illusionists and dwarves and a girl called Eliza)
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (following the lives of strong women as they navigate their way through heartbreak and love)

I’ve also got a French Language book queued up ready to go. Almost certain I will be fluent by the end of the week. Oui?

Here’s a link to a 30 day free trial of audible if you want to check it out. You’ll need to enter your card details but can cancel at any time within the 30 days to avoid being charged. (Unless you love it, in which case crack on!):


(This post contains affiliate links, so if you purchase through here I may get a small commission but the price you pay won’t be any higher than going direct)

So what do you think? Could you squeeze in some more reading time? What was the last book you read? I’d love for you to tell me in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.