Have you ever read the same paragraph a dozen times but still didn’t feel like you processed any of it? Now imagine that feeling 24/7 and multiply by ten. That’s what it’s like to read with ADHD.
Reading has always been a major challenge for me. I often took two to three times longer than my peers to finish reading assignments when I was growing up. And I always scored below average in many reading comprehension assignments.
ADHD itself is not considered a learning disability. But the inherent distractedness that comes with ADHD can often naturally lead to problems focusing on tasks like reading.
Discovering the key to reading with ADHD
I more or less accepted that books weren’t going to be a part of my life by the time I graduated college. I was always content in waiting for all the great books to be made into movies.
That changed when I saw an online article that outlined how to read one book per week. I initially dismissed it as clickbait or a strategy designed for an advanced reader. Once I read it, I was astounded.
The author ran some very simple math. The average book takes about six to eight hours to read. Simply dedicating one hour to reading every day would allow you to complete seven hours of reading… or one book, per week. You could theoretically read 52 books in one year.
Could it really be that simple?
Then I ran some sadder math and found that I was averaging two hours per day on social media. What if I took those two hours and spent them on books? That would get me through over 100 books in a year. (Or at least 52 at my slow ADHD speed.)
This brings me to my first reading tip for my fellow ADHD friends:
First, make a commitment to reading more. It’s not impossible! Reading is for everyone.
You don’t have to set a book quota right away. But you do have to have resolve to make reading a part of your daily schedule.
Have a reason for wanting to read more. It can be anything! There’s no wrong answer.
My motivation was the realization that I was missing out on one of the great joys of life. I wanted to experience books like so many of my friends and family do.
Maybe yours is wanting to expand your knowledge on a topic. Maybe there are novels your friends love but you haven’t had time to read. Whatever it is, let this guide your literary journey.
I’m sort of an all-or-nothing person. I set an intense goal of two hours of reading every day. If that’s your style, go big or go home like I did.
Maybe you prefer to ease into things. You can definitely start with 15 to 30 minutes per day. That could still get you to 6 to 12 books in a year! Slow and steady wins the race.
Remember that getting into the habit of reading more is a marathon. Not a sprint.
Make sure you’re interested
My ADHD makes me intensely curious about a myriad of things. That means I can really absorb information when I’m fascinated. I’ve found that the best way to tap into my ADHD hyper-focus is to find a topic that interests me.
When I’m really interested in a book, my hyper-focus kicks in. I can spend hours absorbing information.
Use your ADHD to your advantage when you’re reading. Know yourself and what triggers your hyper-focus. Start with a topic or story that’s interesting to you instead of just going for grand classics that you think you should be reading. Especially if leisurely reading is new to you.
So, save War and Peace for later! Start with shorter works. A famous person you look up to probably wrote a memoir.
I personally love learning about comedy writers. My very first book in this journey was Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please. I was so engulfed that I finished it in three days.
Yes, audiobooks count, but...
Audiobooks are a wonderful way to “read.” I love them because they hail back to the caveman era of oral storytelling. Research suggests that human beings are incredibly adept at listening to and learning from stories.
I find that I actually retain more information when I have a book read to me than when I simply read it myself.
However, I also find that audiobooks free my eyes to roam. That can make me more prone to distractions and it’s essential to focus when you’re listening to a story. You can do small tasks that don’t require a lot of brain space. But I certainly wouldn’t try to do my taxes.
My favorite ADHD trick to audiobooks? Read along! Having someone read the words I’m looking at is double the information. It keeps my distracted brain twice as focused.
Ditch the distractions
I’m extremely prone to checking social media once a minute. I realized I wasn’t going to read if I was checking Instagram all the time.
I disabled all of my social media accounts to really solidify my commitment to reading. It was definitely tough the first three days. Eventually I adapted.
After a few more days, I stopped having the impulse to open Facebook and I was able to really hone in on my books.
Again, I’m very much a go-big-or-go-home type and this might not be for everyone. Setting 15-minute screen limits on your phone can be just as effective.
I’m also on over a dozen group threads. The amount of distracting texts I get per day is downright silly. I set my phone to “do not disturb” so I see texts later and only receive important calls.
Reading an entire book can be an intimidating process. Reward yourself for milestones (like finishing 50 pages) to stay motivated.
Not interested? No problem
You’re under no obligation to finish a book that you just aren’t into. Treading through a book that bores you makes it harder to move on to the next. Finishing a great book is the number one motivator to start a new one.
Know where to find good books
Your local library is a cost-effective way to find books. Apps like Libby and Hoopla connect to your library cards and let you borrow audiobooks in addition to books and e-books.
I get it. Reading is hard! ADHD or not, it can take an incredible amount of focus and requires us to really use our imagination. But there’s no denying books are an incredible part of life. We shouldn’t let the distractions that come with ADHD keep us from the joys of reading.
Start slow on a topic that you’re interested in and work your way up from there! Want to connect and get recommendations? Add me on Goodreads and we can form our own Life Effects book club!
For more information on how to manage ADHD, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
NPS-US-NP-00528 DECEMBER 2019