Tips for reading more books.

Tips for reading more books 1

I fall somewhere in the middle. The gray area between those who never read and those who can finish multiple books per week. There aren’t very many people I know who carry this middle ground mantle and boast I read 1 book this month! Because it seems to pale in comparison to all the avid readers who can finish double digits in books.

Who decided that reading was a competitive sport? Because the last time I checked reading was useful for so many things – education, entertainment, instruction, personal growth, devotion, etc. – and the reasons for reading even more numerous. So, why is it that I compare what I’m reading to what you’re reading?

I was in the I-don’t-read-much camp for a long time, especially after giving birth to my second child, and I wasn’t sure how to get out of that camp. It felt like I had to find a way to be catapulted into the other camp of avid readers in order to be a respectable reader.

Instead, I simply decided to trade competing with other readers for competing with myself. I set personal goals for how many books and what types I wanted to read each month, and I wrote about the whole journey on my first blog.

If you’re feeling stuck in the not-reading camp or if you’re with me in the gray area, then let me share a few tips that I’ve learned that help me read and finish more books.

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Physical books. It isn’t failure to not finish a book. I had to learn this delicate balance from practice. Sometimes finishing a book is a matter of personal discipline – I just need to do it. And other times finishing a book just isn’t sensible. I’m committed to staying in the gray area on this issue – only finishing the books I feel are wholly beneficial and helpful on my journey to personal growth, and accepting that some books will be best useful to be as references. These books I posted to Instagram are examples of references. I pick and choose the passages I want to read, gain an overall view of the topic, and glean the information that is most interesting to me without feeling guilty for not reading the book cover to cover. 

Try a Kindle sample.  Book recommendations are everywhere, with new books being published every day. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when deciding what to read, what to borrow, and what to buy. Always start by reading the first few pages of the book before buying or borrowing. You’ll save both time and money.

If the book is one you want to finish (I personally prefer to read from a physical book) then I acquire the book by buying it digitally or borrowing it from the library. Since I already started the book and usually Kindle will allow you to read a full chapter (or 2), being able to flip past several physical pages helps me to majorly boost my momentum.

Starting with a Kindle sample helps me hugely by determining if a book is going to be worth my time before I’m committed to buying or borrowing it. It takes the compulsion out of wanting to jump on the band wagon with someone who is recommending their current favorite book. I know I can try it and see for myself before making any decisions. It also eliminates a huge amount of guilt for lack of finishing, because trying a digital sample doesn’t add clutter to my home either by purchasing or borrowing. I don’t have to make shelf space or return an unread stack of books to the library (again).

Try listening to an audiobook; it is still 100% a real book. Listening to a portion of or a whole unabridged book counts. When learning is the goal, then listening to a book is a great way to “read” more books. 

***Side note on listening: learning to listen well is becoming a lost skill. I am deeply enjoying learning from Andrew Pudewa director for the Institute in Excellence in Writing and his views on teaching listening skills. Audiobooks are a wonderful and untapped powerful resource for equipping the next generation. Check out this old podcast from The Read Aloud Revival with Mr. Pudewa and listen to how explains the power of listening to books for kids of all ages. We need to empower children to read, listen, and think if we want to see change in the world around us.

There are some books that are just best as an audiobook. Like, Little House in the Big Woods. We read this out loud to our kids when they were much littler and it felt like punishment – both for us and them. The details of tools and procedures were so descriptive that we didn’t have any working knowledge of, and often we got lost in the language. But as an audiobook, it’s much better. And some people (kids and adults alike) learn best through listening. Consider incorporating audiobooks into your family culture as a regular thing. I, personally, like to listen to audiobooks and podcasts while working in the kitchen. It helps me feel like I’m not chained against my will to the sink. 

Emily Freeman just wrote in her October post that she listens best to non-fiction because she loses the details in fiction and wants to rewind and review too much. But I listen best to fiction because I feel like I lose details of non-fiction. The point I’m trying to make by comparing listening preferences is to start trying different ways of engaging with books to see what works best for you. It’s important to find a method that does these 3 things – builds momentum to finish and to start again, encourages personal educational growth, and promotes ownership and confidence in the reading process. 

It doesn’t matter if you read 10 books per year or 10,000 books per year, what matters is that you are reading. Keep trying, find what works for you, and build your family culture around books (thank Sarah McKenzie for that phrase and check out her amazing podcasts).

There are options for finding audio and digital books:

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Audible by Amazon: This is a subscription service that offers a free trial and 2 free books. There are incentives to continue the service with book credits and more freebies as you continue your subscription. If you are highly interested in the latest titles published, then this would be the best route for you.


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The other option is your library. The library in my area has been developing for years their digital library by using services like Hoopla


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Also, the library has eBooks for borrowing. They will sync to any device (computer, tablet, smartphone) over WiFi and when the borrowing due date arrives the content magically disappears. The book face will still appear in your app, but when you click to see the content it will tell you that the book lending has ended.

I have built my Kindle library significantly through the posts by The Money Saving Mom and the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s free and great-deal Kindle books lists.

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Almost daily Crystal will post eBooks that are currently free on Amazon.


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Anne updates her list of great Kindle deals. These books aren’t free, but they are hand picked books that are significantly discounted. 

The Free Kindle App: Anyone can use the Kindle App with or without a tablet, smartphone, or Kindle. Whatever you are reading this post on can be transformed into a Kindle by using the app. You will need the app to read books for free either from Amazon or the library. Download the free app by clicking here

Check out this free book for Kindle: How Audiobooks Make You Smarter: 7 Little Known Ways Audio Books Can Boost Memory Capacity And Increase Intelligence 

Do you have a reading hack that I haven’t mentioned here? I’d love for you to share it with me. As always, thanks for reading. Check out the links in this post – the underlined ones are affiliate links – thanks for your support of this site. For more information on how this site uses affiliate links click here and for more free content delivered to your email click here.

Until Next Year September: What I learned & What I’m Into

What I'm Learning and Into September 1

Why record what I’ve learned and what I’ve been into?

Record to remember, 

remember to recall, 

recall to recover, 

recover to move on from there, 

move on from there to grow, 

grow to live, 

live to know what it means to be alive, 

know what it means to be alive to breathe gratitude, 

and breathe gratitude to get a taste of heaven.

What have I learned in September? Well, right off the bat let me tell you that September was amazing. I realized that it is my favorite month of the year! I never considered myself a “favorite season” type of person where all the passion for life flows wild at one point on the calendar, until this year. I am so excited to bottle up all the goodness from summer, and I am looking forward to all the blessings fall and winter will hold too.

So here are a few of the things I bottled from September (What I Learned – Emily style, and What I’m Into – Leigh style, all mixed together):

1. Relationships with my little people.

I’m soaking up every moment of their littleness. Often I fear what my children will face when they are older. How will they handle the harsh realities of this world? My brain goes into flight when I even give it an inch to imagine the possibilities. I’m learning that the best way to train them for the future, to guard their hearts and minds, to build a solid foundation of integrity, character, and values is to enter into the moment they are in and process it with them. I don’t want to tell my kids what to think – I mean, don’t get me wrong – I do want it to be that easy. I wish I could just tell them what to think, and save them from the years of trouble from wrong thinking. But that wouldn’t be living, and it wouldn’t be honoring them as people nor their childhood as a process. I want to be a mother who can see a moment, enter it quietly without an agenda to change it, and learn my child before teaching anything. I’m learning that my children accept me and embrace what I have to show them so much more freely when I am shoulder to shoulder with them.

2. Living Proof Live

Goals after LPL September

Beth Moore is like a Pumpkin Spice Latte to me. I don’t get to enjoy listening to her all throughout the year, but when it’s time I savor every single word. Audacious has been a word confronting me and reminding me of all that I learned as I move forward.

3. Revive15: Women Teaching Women

I attended the Revive15 Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana put on by Revive Our Hearts, and it was such a rich time of learning to write, to listen, to teach, and to savor the Word. Jen Wilkin shared a word about the danger treating my devotional life like a debit card that I swipe to get what I want right then and there. She said that the true life in the Word is to make deposits into a savings account – everyday, little by little, the investment grows into a rich life in the Spirit as I meditate on the Word.

// Leigh DeMoss taught on what it means to have the Spirit’s anointing and the importance of waiting on the Lord to teach me before teaching His Word to others.


And Dr. Eric Mason. He taught from Psalm 51, the importance of ongoing repentance. It was a power-filled conference. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend and receive a word from the Lord.


4. Piano Guys

What I Learned and What I'm Into September 3

We super love music in this house, but no one loves it more than my littlest man. I’m so head over heels for his air-cello-playing and dancing that it doesn’t matter that we are listening to the same CD on repeat for the 4th time.

5. Reading

I finally got to the point where I was completely fed up with junk-food-books. Like, they make me upset. I don’t want them near me, in my house, or in my child’s hands. I made up an action plan and we have been working the plan. I’m happy to say that it has drastically changed our library experience for the better.

What I'm Learning and What I'm Into September 4

Plus, I finally brainstormed a better incentive program for my children. Previously, when my daughter was first learning to read longer texts, she wanted to jump right into chapter books, which we encouraged. We told her that if she could read an entire chapter book then we would pay her a small token amount. But sometime between then and now, we lost track of how many books she was reading and she just kept on happily reading for the fun of it. Win/win. Except she was just reading junk-food-books. So now my challenge is to encourage her to read the books I pick out for her, which is why I needed a new incentive.

Raffle tickets.

I’m going to give my kids raffle tickets for each book they read that is assigned to them. Then once a week we will have drawings for different prizes. I’m still working out the kinks on this system, but I’m looking forward to see the momentum build from the amount of quality going into their minds.

6. Unit Studies and Lapbooks

So, I’m using Five in a Row (FIAR) Vol. 4 this year with my 2nd and 3rd graders. What is a unit study? I’ll be explaining and expounding on the subject soon for the Educational Theories Defined series. (I haven’t abandoned that train.) The cool thing for September has been that each week the book I chose lined up exactly with the weather and the calendar. How neat is that? I’m so thankful that I took the extra time to go through the whole list of books and wrote down the title in a seasonal category because I never would have used the instructor’s guide out of order if I had not seen another blogger recommend writing out the titles per month.

Studying Roxaboxen during the first week of fall was a blessing. The sweetness of the story in the changing seasons and growing old of the children – seeing how time passes and changes us was so tender and practical. For science we studied seasons and time and celebrated the first day of fall; it was as if the story gave them handles on this thing called life and they could examine it closely with the tools they had.

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This was another way for me to stay in the moment with them too.

7. Power naps

Did you see the time on my alarm from this picture? Right. I’ve been very close to getting up everyday this week at the earlier time, and it is so worth it. To be able to finish the whole day just as strong as the beginning, I’ve learned, that I need to take a 10-20 minute power nap. As soon as my youngest nods off for his nap, and the older kids are happily engaged in quiet time I announce to them that I’m laying down, I tell them for how long, and I let them know that they can come and get me if they need me. Once I’m in bed, I set an alarm. I’m the type of person that will lay awake in panic thinking what if I fall asleep and don’t wake up on time and then dinner won’t be ready. Yeah, I need an alarm for my sanity. Then when I start to remember to-dos, projects, ideas, or whatever – I push them out of my mind and tell myself that for just this short amount of time I’m not allowed to think about anything. I usually doze off, and wake up a few minutes later very refreshed! Sometimes I reheat a half of a cup of coffee from the morning and then I’m super. And going to bed at 9:30pm is also key to this rhythm.

Books from September:

And many, more but these are the ones that we have parked on for days.

What did you learn in September?

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 21: Building a (better) home school library #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 21 Building a better home school library 1

In 2010, my personal interest-led learning journey began. As a family, we were living in Florida. My kids were 1- and 3-years old at the time. I was the only stay-at-home mom that I knew, and most of my days were spent just managing chaos.

I was alone and lonely, distracted and defeated, and feeding my fear of failure by not even hoping for anything better.

Until the day I became desperate enough to change.

The only downside of this change was an unhealthy attachment to books. In all my youth and intensity for loving to read, I equated happiness with buying a new book.

And bookstores are made for people like me, placing – conveniently by the door as you walk in – their discounted titles for easing your mind that buying 4 books today at $3 really isn’t all that hard on your wallet.

Now I laugh at some of the silly books I bought. The titles reveal what I felt I lacked knowledge of – history, politics, self-help, parenting, etc.

Books, books, books.

And it got worse before it got better.

Because to be a successful homeschooler, I reasoned that I would need to have a lot more books.

But what use is any tool if it sits on the shelf?

Or what good is it if I can’t find it when I need it?

So what I’ve come to understand through 11 moves in 10 years and by the inspiration from others, is that it is simply impossible to live holistically with my life’s purpose and be surrounded by piles and piles of stuff. Even good stuff like books.

My life lately has been one big call to action: Simplify, Set Boundaries, and Organize. And today’s #Back2School in #31Days Challenge is:

Set up a simple home school library.

Since my kids are still young it’s hard for me to expect to have perfectly organized bookshelves. Especially kids’ bookshelves – when the reason I bought the books is for them to read. I can’t expect them to be great readers and great organizers at the same time – I have to pick one or the other.

So, in order to help them in their reading and learning journey, I’ve identified the need for a home library system of organization that works for everyone.

First of all, I had (and still have) to go through all of our books and get rid of the twaddle.

Second, I had to decide how I wanted things organized. One blogger that I follow, alphabetized her children’s books using a simple poster with a large black alphabet stickers.

I bought the supplies to do the same (see the project details below), but then I realized I didn’t want to alphabetize my books just yet.

My kids are still young enough that they don’t know all the titles or the authors, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to be able to replace the book where they found it. I think reality hit me, and I saw my future self endlessly re-alphabetizing.

Instead, I decided to categorize my books by subject matter, unit, or curricula.

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Here’s my key:

  • FIAR – Five in a Row
  • EAH – Early American History
  • SCI – Science
  • LIT – Literature
  • SS – Social Studies
  • NF – Non-fiction
  • REF – Reference

Third, for now all pleasure reading books like chapter books or easy readers they still enjoy, go in the book nook. I’m not very picky about how these books get organized only that they’re well taken care of.

Finally, I hope to model not only a love of learning through reading great books myself, but to also model discernment with how many books I own and how I take care of them.

Useful tips for getting rid of books:

  • My experience with
  • Donate to:
    • The library: You can always borrow it if you need to read it again.
    • The local mission: Imagine the person who may be waiting for just the right book to help them break through whatever barrier that’s holding them back.
    • Thrift stores: Think of thrift stores for books like a library that charges late fees up front. Be sure to bring with you the same number of books to donate as you intend to take home.

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Project Details: I bought a simple, white poster board and alphabet stickers. I cut the board into strips (which left ragged edges, so I covered them with Washi Tape) and applied the stickers to the strips. Then I simply separated books by subject and placed the poster strip between them.

This is Day 21 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Break life’s tasks into manageable chunks: download One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider today!

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

#Back2School in #31Days: Day 5 – Creating a Book Nook

In Day 3, I revealed the awful pictures of what I was starting with for a schoolroom. I hope if you’ve been at this home education thing for a while you were able to sigh with relief that you weren’t starting from that point this year – or if this is your first year of educating your kids at home you were able to see how possible it is to overcome overwhelming odds to set up your space.

Each of our challenges for facing a new year are unique.

Back2School Logo

Today’s bite size piece was deciding to turn the closet into a book nook for the kids.

The original plan for this space was to convert it to a hallway-accessed, built-in shelving unit because we don’t have a linen closet. And our bathroom is tiny (in a cozy, we love this house no matter what sort of way).

So, I let my mind explore the idea of using this under the staircase closet as a special kid-sized area and also started brainstorming what we would do for bathroom storage. (I created this Small Bathroom Solutions board as a result, and we’ve actually accomplished some of these. Setting goals for using Pinterest really works.)

As the idea continued to form, I knew it was going to be a big hit with my kids. I was convinced that I just had to create it.

And out with all the random things as seen here, in order to first move in our small 2 shelf bookcase.

First, I hold myself to the cardinal rule of my own creation – Thou shalt only move an item to its home, or it must move out of our home. I can’t tell you how many times during each of our 11 moves (in 10 years) that I’ve driven myself crazy by busily shuffling things from one flat surface to another.

So busy, but never getting anything done.

Constantly “rearranging” but never giving an item an official place in our home.

It was enough to make me motivated to reach out for this book and change.


As each item was moved out of the closet it was carefully given a home somewhere else, or it was thrown out or donated. I’ve learned to just go with my gut because another one of my crazies with moving is indecision. (Again, thank you Tsh. This podcast is a gem.)

Second, I grabbed the small shelf to see if it would fit, and with that in place I was free to start unloading my kids’ favorite books. In went pillows, a small ottoman, a pretty curtain to cover an unfinished wall, and 2 lamps. Oh, and the guitar – of course!

B2S Day 5 Book Nook

Finally, I revealed the space to the kids and the magic took over from there. Books and pillows in a small space with a cave-like, secret hiding spot feel? WIN.

Serious win.

All the what if we really need storage? And where will we put hairdryers and towels, extra toilet paper and toothpaste-questions paled in comparison. It didn’t matter. So what if I have to run down to the basement for extra toilet paper or reach into the over head cupboards in the schoolroom for my hairdryer (that I only use an average of once a month anyway)?

My kids’ affection for our home and their cool space has just gone through the roof.

And I now am completely convinced that creating spaces with purpose within the home is a non-negotiable. When I first read through Organized Simplicity the winter of 2013, I had no idea how to see the purpose of a space – I was instead the master of multitasking spaces way beyond their design.

Now looking back I see the huge difference of asking too much from a space, by hoarding and cramming too many “good things” into one place.

So, do I sometimes think this closet/storage space turned Kids’ Book Nook is a waste of useable space? Not at all.

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The joy our whole family gets from it is irreplaceable.

What space in your home brings the most joy to your kids? How can you make it even more enjoyable for everyone?

If you’ve missed a day, check out the index of posts: click here.

Further reading:


Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.


Summer education: What we are reading this week.

I write a lot about learning. I mention a lot of books I read – ones borrowed at my local library, listened to as audiobooks, and new ones.

One thing I don’t want to leave unsaid, is that I do not read through books only for the sake of finishing it. I read slowly. I take my time to incorporate the information, to ensure that I fully understand (to the best of my ability) before moving on.

Which is why this week, you’ll see that one of the books I need to finish is one that I’ve mentioned over and over. I think this post was the first time I mentioned it. Notice the January date.

I’m not a perfect scholar, rather I want to be a learner. A grower. A nurturer. A woman who keeps her word.

So this week, as a part of our families ongoing (summer included) education, here is the plan:

what we are reading summer education

For the kids, we will have another busy week of settling in at our new house, but I don’t want to sacrifice their minds for the sake of getting more done in 24 hours. It’s important to me to still take time to sharpen their skills and engage in conversations about interesting topics – and to take time to laugh a little.

We have finally found the Imagination Station books.

I originally was introduced to them through the Money Saving Mom – I think I got one as a free eBook once, and then I kept seeing them come up in her posts about reading aloud to her kids everyday.

My daughter has read the first one on her own, and I’m reading another one aloud to all the kids.

Mad Libs have become a vital part of our bedtime routine. Who doesn’t want to have a belly laugh before settling down to go to sleep? Well, my kids are highly motivated to get their evening routine accomplished because the sooner they are finished the more Mad Libs we are able to do.

For me, I am going to be working on finishing this course (yes, it’s a 14-day course and yes I began on June 2nd – no joke. I’ll finish though!), as well as these books:

Own Your Life is one of those books that has energy to it. The author’s heart can be sensed on every page. It isn’t a list of things to do (or stop doing) because then it wouldn’t be your life anymore. I love that it is written by a woman farther along in the journey than I am. I like that she’s lived the message before she wrote it.

I’m also going to start reading 50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha. I listened to this podcast by the author and on the same day my pastor recommended that I read more biographies. Coincidence?

My commitment to learning never rests, and I hope that encourages others to do the same. To live with eyes open, ears to the ground, and hands ready to do the work.

What are you going to learn this week?

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