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05 December 2022

From phone to the page: Juliet on making time for reading this summer

As 2022 draws to a close, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura CEO Juliet Blyth (left, at our recent Pānui) reflects on a year of reading... or thinking about reading, as the case may be.

It’s that time of year when ‘best of’ book lists abound and if you’re anything like me, you had great intentions to read more this year, but well life, lol, and here you are again.

It’s probably a weird admission for one leading an organisation devoted to reading to make, but I, like most people (if our 2021 National Reading Survey results are anything to go by), struggle to make time for reading.

I know I have the time, because endless hours are lost to making lists of what to read next and checking what other people are reading on my Instagram feed. Now I just need to move away from the phone.

We need to stop viewing reading as a 'nice to have' and start viewing it as central to our own health and wellbeing - that of our children's as well as to that of our nation's. Its oft-quoted, but OECD research shows that reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success. It’s an even more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.

Reading can even contribute to a longer life, as researchers from Yale University found. In a 2016 study, they concluded that “book readers experienced a 20 percent reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow-up compared to non-book readers.”

Reading requires no fancy equipment, all that is needed is a willing reader and a book. If it’s been a while since you last picked one up, we recommend being patient with yourself; creating a reading habit can take time but as little as 10 minutes each day is enough to kick things off.

Knowing what to read can be the next hurdle, and lists can be daunting. We recommend thinking about the books you enjoyed reading as a child. Chances are, the same themes will still capture your imagination.

Whilst many of the benefits of reading are said to come from reading fiction, developing empathy for example, let’s not forget essays, short stories, non-fiction, graphic novels, middle-grade and YA fiction, magazine articles and audiobooks. Some may disagree, but in our view, all reading is good reading, and who knows where it might lead?

And if a child sees you reading, you’re already winning. Modelling reading is one of the surest ways to grow a reader. The Reserve Bank Governor may have asked us to ‘cool our jets’ this summer, but unlike spending money, one can never ever read too much.

Check out our children's reading challenge here and join our #NZSummerOfReading to restart your reading habit with us this season.