The Untapped Brilliance blog has several articles about reading books. The idea behind How to Read a Book When You Have ADHD is to eliminate guilt if you read books differently from the traditional linear way.
Another article talks about how reading on a Kindle can be super helpful for ADHDers. The interesting thing is, each time I post an article about reading books, it sparks more questions including,
‘How can I read a novel from to start to finish?’
That is the topic of this article!
Here are 7 Tips to Help You Read a Novel When You Have ADHD.
1. Do want to read it?
It might sound obvious, but if you are reading for pleasure, check with yourself first that it is a book you want to read. Sometimes we feel like we ‘should’ read a book, perhaps because it’s a classic, a book everyone else is reading, or a friend lent it to you.
If the answer is yes, you really do want to read it, next read the free preview on Kindle, or the first chapter in a physical book. If the first chapter captures your attention and you would like to keep reading, commit to reading the whole. If the first chapter doesn’t suck you in, don’t read any more.
This technique sets you up for success in finishing a novel.
Motivation for reading a book isn’t stagnant. A book that didn’t grab your attention today might be compelling reading in the future. You can always try again in a few months or years. So, if you choose not to read it right now, it doesn’t mean you will never read it in the future.
2. When are you going to read?
When a book is really captivating, it’s easy to find the time. You are naturally pulled towards it because you can’t wait to find out what happens next. The danger is, when there is a lull in the plot, ADHDers can lose interest and the book gets left half read.
However, if you have a habit of reading at certain times of day, you will pick up the book even when it gets slow, and continue until it gets good again.
When are you going to read? In bed before you go to sleep? On your commute? At lunch time? Carving out a time to read in your weekly schedule supports your goal to read a novel.
3. How to focus on the text – 7 suggestions
If you are enjoying the content of the book but having a hard time focusing on it, here are seven suggestions.
a. Are you hungry?
Are you hungry or thirsty? This affects concentration and focus, and is an easy fix. One day I was on a long train ride and I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to focus on my book. Then I realized I hadn’t eaten in hours. After getting a snack and some water, reading became easy and I was sucked back into the plot.
b. Is it just reading?
Is it just reading novels? Or is it hard to focus on other things too? If it’s hard to focus on other things too, that might be a signal to revisit how you are treating and managing your ADHD.
c. Read out loud
Try reading out loud for a little while. That can be helpful because it forces you to focus on one word at a time. Once your focus kicks in, you can go back to reading quietly again.
d. Word Runner
Along the same lines, try Word Runner. It’s a feature on the Kindle app. It shows you one word at a time, and you get to set the speed. A friend of mine sets it fast so she is forced to concentrate.
She said, “I know it helps me focus A LOT better and read faster. I can visualize the story just as well too, probably because my focus is so intense.”
You could experiment and see if this helps you too.
e. Read a format that feels easy for you
Experiment with paper books versus an e-reader. Find out which is easier for you to focus on. When you find what works best for you, keep doing it.
For me it’s my Kindle. When I discovered the dyslexia font, it changed my reading experience 1000%. Everything became easier for me; reading didn’t take so much effort. The dyslexia font can help ADHDers who don’t have dyslexia, so check it out and see if it helps you.
f. Font size
E-readers, including the Kindle, allow you to change the size of the font. If you prefer books, you can also get books in large print. It’s not an eyesight issue, it just makes processing the information easier which in turn makes it easier to concentrate.
Find the right balance of being in a stimulating enough environment so you don’t fall asleep, but not so noisy or busy that you are distracted.
4. Join a book club
If you are struggling to finish novels, consider joining a book club. The external accountability can be a great motivation for ADHDers to finish a book. Plus, the book comes alive in a whole new way when you discuss it with other people.
Book clubs usually meet once a month so if you want to read more than one book a month, you could join more than one book club. Books clubs often have themes, such a science fiction book club or a classics book club. If you decide to join one (or two), find one that appeals to your reading taste.
5. Give yourself permission
Give yourself permission to read novels!
You could have some unlying beliefs about reading novels,
Perhaps that spending time reading a novel is an indulgent luxury, so you’ll read when you have done all your ‘more important’ tasks. Classic ADHD thinking 🙂
Or that reading nonfiction books is OK because you are learning facts, but reading novels is frivolous.
In the podcast ‘Just One Thing’, host Michael Mosely recommends reading a novel for 30 minutes daily.
He explains reading a novel has many health benefits, from reducing stress and depression to strengthening social skills.
All amazing benefits when you have ADHD.
Knowing that reading a novel is good for your health might alleviate your underlying guilt about reading a novel!
Here’s the link to the podcast episode so you can listen to it too.
6. Create a book buying rule
Sometimes ADHDers buy a book because they would like to read it someday. In the Clear and Calm decluttering course (part of The Untapped Brilliance Club membership) I talk about the out of sight, out of mind factor. This is where ADHDers keep physical items in sight because if they can’t see them, they are concerned they will forget about them. Lots of ADHDers buy books as a way to remember they want to read them.
The downside of this is it contributes to clutter and feeling guilty for having lots of unread or partly read books.
Have a book buying rule. Only buy a book, either on your Kindle or a paper book, if you are actually going to start reading it that day. If you don’t have time or inclination to start reading it today, don’t buy it. Come back again when you do.
You can overcome the out of sight out of mind factor by keeping a wish list of books you would like to read.
7. Set reading goals
Having reading goals also helps you to finish books. Perhaps you want to read 52 books a year, or a book a month. Having this type of goal helps you to finish a book because it’s part of a bigger picture. Good Reads can help with this type of goal.
You can also set a mini-goal each time you sit down to read. Perhaps finish a chapter, or read 10 pages, or read for a certain amount of time, i.e., 20 minutes. Setting goals like this helps to give you mini milestones along the way.
This post again highlights to me how the profile of each person with ADHD differs. I read novels since primary school 😉 I think it’s one of my areas of hyperfocus to be grateful about.
A reading circle is indeed a great support. The books my circle’s programme are basically the novels that I read (Too much academic reading)
Received Where the Clawdads Sing, as a gift and I read a few pages before bed time (phone forbidden from the bedroom …)
(I would be so frustrated by a system that highlight a word at a time as I read in blocks of words 😉 – speed reading course
Apologies for my poor grammar. Clearly I need to read more 😉
Omg this is soooo me, especially point 4 – my house is full of unread books cluttering surfaces. I never realised that I buy them so as not to forget that I want to read them. Thank you! That’s the non fiction books. I haven’t read an actual novel in maybe 15 years.
Thanks for this article, Jacquie! Four comments from me:
1. I have hyperactive eye muscles (around 10% of us, I think), making reading a challenge. Definitely my Kindle helps with that as I can enlarge the letters and spread out the lines of type (I discovered this by accident one day years ago when I picked up one of my elderly mother’s “big print” books when I was visiting her);
2. I had an excuse when I was a child for not reading, as I was very athletic: “I’ll read when I’m too old, silly, sick and stupid to do anything else!”;
3. As a child, I would go to the library with my friends during the summer and pick out books with attractive covers(!) and pretend to read them;
4. Non-fiction books I intuitively read from back to front (go figure!). I guess it makes me feel I’m achieving something when I can’t focus long enough to read a book the proper way!
My solution is to listen to audio books. I have rediscovered my love of “reading” this way. I use Audible but some public libraries have audible books available on-line or on CD, if you are not able to pay the Audible fee. Also, joining a book club is a great idea. I now have one at work and one with friends so I’m always reading/listening to something.
Very helpful post! Not just for those who have ADHD but also for us the readers. We’ll have the capacity to help them through this article. 👍
I love everything to do with words and reading but I have struggled with completing books since I was a child. I have devoured only about 5 books in my life (I’m over 40!) and all others I have abandoned. I always start articles (all of yours! magazines, online, etc. from the end – I even start magazines from the back. I don’t know why I do this but I’ve done it since my first Tiger Beat and Glamour magazines as a teenager. I think it’s a way to feel in control or accomplished, maybe? Most books I read the last page, too. Even mysteries. I just can’t wait to find out the end. When I need to read something online that is lengthy I copy and paste the text into columns like a newspaper format and print it out. I completely relax and I’m able to read more easily. I wish I could buy books in this format. I have never had trouble with spelling or grammar. Grammar is one of my favorite topics. I taught English as a Second Language to Adults for 15 years but my reading habits are atrocious. My University age son reads novels daily and has AdD like me – we are so different in this aspect. When I read poetry, a new recipe or a sewing pattern I take 2-3 days to read it over and over in order to “absorb” it. I find it frustrating because I am quick with words when I’m speaking to people. But for some reason my eyes or brain can’t process the written word quickly for me. It makes me feel stupid but I know that I’m not. I use a colored pen and I circle, underline or use arrows to focus on the important information. The 2 Kindle ideas you mentioned interest me very much. I have a first generation Nook but a new Kindle is on my Christmas list!