By Shannon Reese
My first unofficial job title was Professional Book Reader.
I was eight years old.
While my family never passed out a weekly allowance (because doing chores is part of being a family) my sister and I did get paid to read.
A penny a page.
Maybe it was a strategic move by my mom to get some quiet time in a house with two loud little girls. Or maybe it was because my dad, a well read, self-educated man knew the impact that a good book has on a life. Either way, the volume in our house decreased as the belly of my piggy bank increased.
I started with youth fiction (Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder books were my favorite), then I moved to biographies of missionaries. My favorites were the stories of brave women, whose names I can’t even remember now, adventuring into jungles to befriend an unknown people group for the purpose of sharing the Gospel with those who had never heard.
And then in my teens I started to read non-fiction books by Christian authors that helped me better understand how to follow Jesus.
For the past three decades, reading has created an escape. A place to adventure. A place to rest. In fact, what to read is the second thing I think about when planning a vacation. (The first is where to go, of course.)
Good books have been the source of my greatest learning, growth and development.
Through books, mentors I’ll never meet have spoken life-changing truth into my life; I’ve been encouraged in ways I hadn’t experienced in person; I’ve discovered kindred spirits; and I’ve realized that I’m not alone in how I feel or what motivates me.
My dad was right. A good book can change a life.
As leaders, we continue to learn, grow, and develop so we can give to others from a running spring, not a stagnant pond (The late Dr. Howard Hendricks describes this metaphor at the beginning of his book Teaching to Change Lives; I highy recommend it!)
So, as Christian women leading, how can we read more effectively this year?
Here are a few strategies to consider:
- Read (your Bible) before breakfast (but not before coffee.) Grab your coffee. Take a few sips and wake up. Then read something from the Bible before you start reading your news apps, emails, texts, or social media posts. It could be a verse, a paragraph or a chapter. One idea is to read a chapter in Proverbs each day of the month. On the 1st, read Proverbs 1. On the 2nd, read Proverbs 2, and so on. Pick one proverb from each chapter and rewrite it in your own words. Then journal a prayer to God inspired by that proverb.
- Read before bed. Rather than fall asleep to the sound of your latest binge worthy show, leave a stack of light reading next to your bed. Choose an enjoyable type of book that makes you smile or laugh or detach from your daily life in a restful way. Check out some of my favorite go-to books for light reading before bed: The Daily Light by Anne Graham Lotz, The Mitford Series by Jan Karon, The Harmony Series by Philip Gulley, or Love Does by Bob Goff. All of these can be purchased through your local bookstore or online.
- Read on your way to work or while you walk. What? Audio books are great ways to get more “pages read.” If you are an auditory processor, consider what it looks like to listen to your books or even listen to the Bible being read to you. While listening to others read is hard for me, I have friends who only listen to books using Audible. I’m currently listening through the Bible using the Dwell app. It’s different than I’m used to and not the only way that I’m reading the Bible during the day but it’s helping me focus in a new way.
- Read strategically/topically. For a month, consider an area of focused personal growth and read books or articles on that topic. I want to grow in my ability to lead difficult conversations. Two recommended books are currently loaded into my Kindle app for this month’s reading. Next month, I’ll consider a different topic on which to focus. If you and I read like this all year, we’ll have learned more about twelve different topics and likely grown more in these areas as well.
- Read what you’ve read before. To be honest, I hate reading books twice (except for the Bible). But if it’s your thing, go for it. Reading through a book a second time, I find I’m naturally attracted to the portions I’ve highlighted but I get bored with all the words in between. But what if I could regularly read the highlighted portions and review helpful concepts from the books I’ve already read? After some research, I discovered Readwise and plan to start the 30 day free trial today! It’s a subscription resource that connects personal online reading material to an app that emails highlighted quotes from the books read every day. Check it out if this is something that might encourage you to read more. Use this Readwise link and we’ll both benefit.
So, how do you plan to read differently this year? Comment below and let us know.
For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, like a two-mouthed sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts.
Hebrews 4:12, The Passion Translation