The End of a Reading Slump

I’ve read 5 books in the last 2 weeks!

What’s so amazing about that? Well, it’s the same number of books I read all the way through in the previous four months.

For over a year, and maybe even closer to two, I have been in a really baffling reading slump: Nothing sounded good, what I started I wouldn’t finish, I’d read reviews and log titles into Goodreads but never put holds on them, I’d walk past the new book shelves at work without wondering if my authors had fresh titles out. If I felt like reading, I’d re-read something really familiar.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was still reading a book or two a month, but that’s pretty slow going for me; my usual pace before this had been two or three titles a week.

It was SO WEIRD. And I know this is a little off-topic for this blog, but I found myself thinking about reading A LOT over the past month or two, and wondered if anyone else had dealt with something like this!

I had a conversation on Twitter about it with a few people on June 12. And then all of a sudden, a few days later, I seemed to snap out of it. I brought home almost a dozen books, I finished the first one on the 15th, and two more on the 17th and 18th, and two MORE on the 23rd and 24th. (I’m a Goodreads addict, that’s how I know.) Now I’m in the middle of three more and can’t wait to pack books for vacation and it feels so good to be reading again!

The good thing about a reading slump is that when it's over, you have 2 books to read in all your series

Why do reading slumps happen?

I’ve been thinking about mine, and I have a couple theories.

One is that I’ve been in a pretty intense phase of research, learning, synthesizing, and writing for the past year or so at work. In response to the new Every Child Ready to Read materials, I’ve been investigating how children develop cognitively in terms of reading, writing, talking, singing, and playing. I’ve taken in a lot of information, and I’ve been responsible for increasing amounts of content creation to provide early literacy information and support to our staff.

Another factor I think is how my Twitter network has grown over the years. I’m following almost 500 people–200 of them youth services librarians–and SO MANY links to SO MANY interesting articles float past in my feed every hour. I don’t read them all, who could? But I know I’m reading way more long essays online than I used to, and I love it. It’s like having a subscription to 100 magazines!

The last piece of the puzzle is that last year I challenged myself to read 365 picture books. And I did! I can’t remember the last juvenile chapter book that I’ve actually finished, but my picture book reading has been higher than at any other time of my life as a children’s librarian.

So in thinking about it, I’m realizing that my reading slump wasn’t really a slump–I’ve just been reading different types of works and in different formats.

So why would the slump end now?

Well, maybe I’m adjusting to the type and level of informational reading I’m currently managing at work. Also, a number of high-energy projects I was working on this winter and spring outside of work wrapped up by the end of May. (Yahoo! Summer!) And maybe I just started missing that feeling of finishing a really great new story!

Whatever is the cause of my reading slump or the reason for it ending, I’m just happy to be back in my old groove. It felt funny to be a librarian who “wasn’t reading,” especially since I keep an eye on so many great book review blogs…sometimes it felt like I was the only person in the world who didn’t have a favorite new title to talk about!

Finally, here’s some of the great suggestions I was offered on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. Do any of these work for you when you need a reading boost?

@andiemama says it helps her to have a list to work through, and a reason to read something. For instance she reads through the Caudill nominees every year. Then, if her other books aren’t appealing, she just picks up a title from the Caudill list. eBooks (yay portability & accessibility) and audiobooks also mix it up a bit and help keep reading fresh.

@tcy28 says that non-fiction helps her get out of a rut, sending her in new directions, as does genre-hopping. Trying a completely new kind of story (for her it was steampunk) can help get you going again!

@readingchick likes a challenge, such as the 48 Hour Reading Challenge, or a group challenge, to get her going again. She also mentioned audiobooks as helping her when she’s in a slump.

@ipapaverison said she had a reading slump when she was teaching middle school, and that’s when she started reading 2 or 3 books at a time…which worked to get her out of it!

Has this ever happened to you? Why do you think it happens? How did you get out of your slump? Did your reading habits or patterns change once your slump was over?

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4 Responses to The End of a Reading Slump

  1. Angela says:

    I was a voracious reader as a kid, and even up through high school, I almost always had at least one book I was in the middle of reading. And theeeen I went to college, and somehow my reading fell off dramatically. I think it was a combination of the workload and not having the same access to the books I wanted to read as I’d had before. (I went to school out of state, and not only was I away from MY library, the nearest public library was closed for renovations for a good chunk of my time there.) I didn’t even pick up any new fiction during those weeks where I was a thoroughly lazy student and had neglected to do my assigned reading for my classes. I think the knowledge that there was academic reading I was supposed to be doing kept me from doing any reading I might have wanted to do. Not to mention, I had a laptop to keep me occupied with entertaining websites and online articles. (And facebook. Let’s not forget facebook.)

    I’d read a few books each summer, but it was nothing compared to what I’d been devouring before. I didn’t come out of my slump until roughly a year after graduation. I picked up a Tamora Pierce paperback I had, then decided it was necessary to reread all of the other Tamora Pierce paperbacks I owned. I think I went through something like 12 in a week and a half, haha. And somehow, that did it! I still have weeks where I’m reading less than I’d like to be, but I’m also still reading a lot of things online, as well as some various other formats that don’t always translate to “I read two books last week,” very well. (For example, I’ve been reading quite a few comic books and graphic novels, and it can be difficult with those to get a sense of what the equivalent to a book might be.)

    In my case, as well, I think it took me finally admitting to myself that children’s literature and young adult literature is my one true love to get me back into my reading groove. College brought with it a switch in focus to classic novels and highbrow literature, and while I enjoy studying such works in a classroom setting, I’m not big on reading them for fun. There can be a stigma attached to YA and children’s lit though, and it took longer than I would have liked to be able to own it. I’m there now though, and it’s a good feeling. 🙂

  2. Melissa says:

    Yay for you! Triple yay! Thanks Angela for sharing your story. I think you’re absolutely right that “permission” can play a part in this…permission to allow yourself to read something for pleasure when there’s “work” or “assigned” reading that must happen as well, and permission to allow yourself to read exactly what you want to read and not what someone else might think you should be reading. I so appreciate you taking the time to share this. I loved reading it! Here’s to being where we want to be as readers!

  3. Michelle K says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve gone through bouts of slumps, too. It always feels so strange. It mostly happens when I’m over-taxed at work (i.e., Summer Reading planning time). I usually get back in with graphic novels. Garfield comics were what made me like reading as a kid (I was a reluctant reader). Going back to comics always helps me!

  4. Melissa says:

    Thanks Michelle! I love your comics angle. My library has a pretty good graphic novel collection, though I haven’t read very much of it. But I usually have to put comic strip compilations on hold, so I tend to forget about them. But they are great summer reading and there’s a lot of Cul de Sac I want to catch up on!

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