The Real Reasons You’re Not Reading as Much as You Should Be (and how to read more as an adult)


Want to get back into reading? Here’s a look at the reasons why adults read less than they used to, plus exactly what you can do about it and how to read more!

Bookshelf piled with old hardback books

5 Reasons Adults Don’t Read, with Strategies and Solutions to Read More as an Adult

Sometimes we give ourselves labels and we keep wearing them around long after they’ve begun to peel off.

Growing up, I was a self-proclaimed bookworm. Anyone could’ve verified that title. I read in nearly every lull in our schedule–on the way to music lessons and appointments, between chores, before my dad read aloud to us in the evening. I always had a story to get back to, and I couldn’t stand to be gone for more than a few hours.

Then I grew up and things changed. I got so busy with life and responsibilities that my absences from books stretched to days…weeks, in fact. I still called myself an avid reader, and told new acquaintances that reading was one of the main things I did for fun.

By that definition, I wasn’t having much fun.

The truth was, I was loving life as a young adult, but reading had dropped low on my priorities. I wanted to call myself a reader because I still loved stories and revered books as valuable. I just wasn’t actually reading many of them.

And I know I’m not alone.

Hand turning the pages of a book

In the last ten years since college, I’ve heard numerous friends and colleagues say that they don’t read as much as they’d like to. We used to love reading, but not we have jobs and kids and bills and an awful lot of things on our plate.

But we want to be bookworms again. We know the books we read as children shaped who we are now. We know there are thousands more pages we want to cover, and we know we want our children to become readers as well.

So how exactly do we get those pages turning again, when our lives are spinning so rapidly with all the things we need to do? We can give a lot of excuses about why we don’t read, but I think the real reason we neglect books is because we simply don’t make time for them.

Stop looking for more time to read and make time, instead!

According to a Pew Research report, the typical American reads just four books per year. So don’t be typical! Here are some common reasons why you’re not reading as often as you’d like, plus some actionable workarounds. Do any of these sound familiar?

Why You Don’t Read Anymore

1. You watch too much TV

As an adult, you still find stories relaxing, but your medium for enjoying them has changed. You’ve discovered how deliciously easy it is to sink into the couch and get lost in a good Netflix show at the end of a full day.

Woman relaxing on the couch with a mug

How to read more:

Designate just one or two nights a week for TV and movies. Do other useful things with your evenings, and read for an hour or two before bed most nights. If you start to fall asleep 15 minutes into your reading time, do what I do and go wash your face. It will wake you up and buy you some more time with your book.

2. You spend spare minutes on your phone

You pull that smartphone out every time you have a lull. When you’re waiting at an appointment, waiting in the car while your husband runs into the store, waiting for the oven timer to go off…your phone pops into your hand and you start scrolling.

How to read more: 

Your book must be accessible. This means you take it with you every time you get in the car. You keep a current read in a central location in the house so you don’t have to dig for it. You use a purse that fits your book, or you bring a book that fits your purse. Be ready to read at a moment’s notice, and get in the habit of reaching for your book and not your phone.

Tip: Sign up for DailyLit to get 15-minute fiction installments delivered straight to your email inbox. It’s free!

3. Your schedule is too full

There are so many good and necessary things to do in a week–and you’re doing a ton of them! Large chunks of time are spoken for with commitments, gatherings, activities, and dozens of things you said “yes” to.

Woman's hand on the steering wheel driving a car

How to read more: 

Stop packing in your activities and space them out more. You don’t necessarily have to do less, just do less at a time. If your week already has a morning or two blocked out, for instance, don’t schedule anything else. Leave pockets in your schedule that you can fill with reading–not just for you, but for your whole family. If you want your kids to be readers, you need to provide them with actual time to read.

Related: Here’s a list of 50 classic chapter books for family reading time!

4. You’re a helicopter parent

You hover around your kids both when you’re out and about and when you’re all at home. At the playground you’re right on their tail the whole time, calling instructions or congratulations. At home you interrupt their play by plying them with questions, pointing out details, or even taking over their activity altogether. Of course you want to engage with your child, but if you’re constantly inserting yourself then you’re missing a chance to do something for you–like reading.

How to read more: 

Let them play while you read. Children need to figure things out independently sometimes and explore their environment on their own terms. Give them chances to entertain themselves at the playground, backyard, or in their room while you pull out a book. You can still spend some of the time playing with them, but they don’t need you to be their shadow.

5. You work too much

You might be addicted to busyness without even realising it. You’re always in “go” mode, looking for the next thing that needs to be crossed off your to-do list and feeling guilty if you’re not accomplishing something. As an entrepreneur, I have a bear of a time trying to turn off work! It’s great when work and tasks are fulfilling and fun, but give them boundaries.

How to read more: 

Keep office hours. Set specific blocks of time for work or to-dos, give yourself a lunch break, and have a cutoff point for your tasks list each day. At some point each day, you’re going to have to ignore the to do list and just read instead, or you’ll never get a page in edgewise.

Woman in a yellow cardigan holding a large stack of books

If you want to renew your bookworm title, begin by making reading mandatory, and then look for ways to create mandatory reading time for yourself.

You’ll be back in the literary habit before you know it!

Printable Reading Journal in a 3-ring binderWant to reclaim your reading life? Take a look at The Book Lover’s Companion, a printable reading journal and treasure trove for all the bookish things you want to keep on paper! Created by yours truly(:

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P.S. Here are 4 strategies I personally use to increase my page count, plus some award-winning books if your reading list needs a little inspiration. And if you want a post specifically for moms of young kids, have a look at these real-life ways to read more when you have young children at home.

You also might enjoy this post where I asked 12 book bloggers how they find time to read. And once you get back into reading books, improve your reading life with these 12 habits for intentional readers.

The Literary Medicine Cabinet eBook CoverFor a lovely, short eBook on reading as a form of self care, check out The Literary Medicine Cabinet by Haley Stewart. She includes some excellent reading suggestions and lists, too!

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The Real Reasons You\'re Not Reading as Much as You Should Be (and how to read more as an adult)

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  1. I’m glad that I’m not alone here! I also say that I’m an avid reader and I find that I rarely read anymore. This article is fantastic and quite insightful.

    1. I think I need to get in the habit of reading on my Kindle more. There are some places where it’s easier to take a Kindle than multiple books.

  2. I just found this blog and I’m enjoying it. I have started ready a lot in the past few years and one of the reasons relates to #2. I downloaded the Kindle app so my books are always with me on my phone. I look like an annoying person always on my smartphone but I’m actually reading a book while waiting in line at the grocery, drive through, doctor’s office, etc.

  3. This post hit my pain point for sure! Great points and solutions. Have you read Stephen King’s book On Writing? He spends a lot of time explaining how he fits in so much reading. (Although, he’s sort of an oddball, and I might look like one, too, if I incorporate all of his methods!)

  4. Wonderful. I love taking my children places that are safe for them to explore and play where I can read a book while they run around and play on their own. I think it’s important for kids to invent their own games and use their imaginations…socialize with other kids. I even have specific books to read when we are out and they are playing–short story collections and shorter books. I read longer, more serious books in the evening after they go to sleep (usually because TV is not as good as my book).

  5. Oh my this struck a nerve. This year my goal is 52 books since i barely managed 15 last year. The restriction is I must read books i already own before buying anymore.

    1. That is a great, challenging goal! I am not exclusively reading books I own, but I did set a goal to be more intentional about reading from my shelves. I want to read about one book per month that I already own.

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