I found my favorite book of all time by browsing my local library's bookshelves. I found another favorite book by being bored in a bookstore while my Dad browsed for books. And I found one of my favorite storytellers by glancing at shelves at a small bookstore while on vacation. And now, I read both of these books each and every year, over again and watch out for books by Margaret Atwood as often as I remember to.
There are some things each of us do every week to zen out. And without them, we may fall apart...or explode. In any case, we can feel it when we don't do those things.
For me, it's going to a bookstore or library. Now, since this is my jam, I actually try to get to bookstores really, really frequently. I keep up with new books for friends with kids (and who are we kidding, myself), teacher friends, and clients.
But the real magic happens when I go with no agenda whatsoever.
The weight of the book lets me know it's real and it has something important to say. I might not like the book, I might love it - but either way, holding it in my hands compels me to open it and find out. And this is why I like going to physical places with physical books.
I can get lost in books. They make me think. They can make me feel good and bad, sometimes simultaneously or guilty for not reading enough of them. Books have heft and require me to spend more than 10 seconds on them - more time than I would if I were clicking around online.
Books require me to focus, to analyze, to connect, to escape and to reflect. Books make me feel life.
Many times I speak to parents and teachers alike who complain about the amount of time they don't spend on reading. They want to spend more time but don't know how to fit it in with their already busy, chore-filled, obligation heavy schedule.
Reading feels guilty - because "I could be doing something else that's productive," I hear.
I hear it over and over from busy parents. But what I hear in the subtext is, I really want to read. I want to make that time and I don't want to feel guilty. How do I do that?
By yourself, no kids, no spouse, no friends present.
You will likely revel in quiet, alone time, which is what you might have been craving as well as the reading.
But you might also like the unplanned time.
So much of our lives is scheduled and even though we know we should let our kids explore for their learning, we don't usually do it for ourselves. Go without a plan. Browse. Explore. Pick books up. Read the back covers, flip through them. Put books down. If it's not interesting or the cover is ugly or you don't like the font in the book - no one is looking over shoulder and judging, just put it down.
And before you go, stop in the kid's section. See what the store has on its leading table for kids. But also, poke around on the shelves. Pull a book out. Look for books you loved as a kid. Read them to yourself. Remember how you felt reading them as a kid. Find your favorite book as a tween (True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Where the Red Fern Grows anyone?).
Don't buy anything.
Before you retrain yourself to browse in a physical place with physical books and relax while doing it, wait to buy. You don't want to stress yourself out!
Waiting will give you time to figure out when you will read whatever it is you buy and to not feel guilty about it.
You will be more focused when you return from your hour away.
But you do take a break, and you come back to your tasks, and you feel renewed. You can get things done again and miraculously, because you took time, you can also prioritize what actually has to be done better. You needed that break.
That's what this hour at the bookstore is to browse. You will be more focused on what you have to do when you get home. You gave yourself time and space to think away from the mess of obligations. You got out of the house. You will be restored and you will still get things done.
In fact, the break will help your productivity. No need to feel guilty for taking the time. It's necessary.
Talk about your solo bookstore visit with your kids (and everyone).
So, talk to them about your visit to browse books. Tell them what you loved about the bookstore and why you liked going by yourself, and tell them what your favorite kid book was that you saw. Tell everyone else what your favorite adult book was that you saw - or maybe your favorite book you read as a kid. Seek book recommendations for your next solo trip, so you can check those books out too.
And now, since you've experienced browsing books again, you can reflect with your kids about how their book browsing is going - what their frustrations are (I can't find any books I like!), what their triumphs are (I found a really awesome book - I can't wait to read it!), and why they might be feeling overwhelmed (there are just so many choices! I need help! The story isn't fun/interesting/compelling, I don't like it!).
You'll be able to relate and help your kids grow as readers, because you're doing it once a month too.
P.S. Do this tip. I know, you are hesitant. Every single parent I talk to who does this after I recommend it, comes back and tells me that right around 40 minutes into their visit, they realized they were relaxing. And! Nothing fell apart.
They now had a new way to talk to their kids about reading. Every single parent enjoyed themselves.