Start a Reading Habit

Start a Reading Habit

by Megan Klein-Hewett


Are you a reading goal-setter? Do you set yourself an annual reading goal, whether it’s a number of books you wish to read or a more specific challenge? If you need some inspiration, there are plenty of options to choose from to make reading a habit in 2021.

First, let’s start with some misconceptions about reading goals and their “requirements.” Reading goals are personal, and reading is defined as whatever it means to you. Audiobooks count. Graphic novels count. Books read with your kids count! Don’t let anyone else define what reading a book means to you.

If you’re looking for a challenge to get you going, Ames Public Library’s Winter Reading Challenge is a great place to start. Simply read for 30 days between now and February 14. It’s the perfect challenge to start a new habit. We’ve even created a reading log if you’re someone who needs a physical reminder of how close you are to reaching your goal. You can sign up for the Winter Reading Challenge at, pick up a reading log at Ames Public Library, or print your own from the Ames Public Library website.

Another fun and easy reading goal to keep you motivated is to choose a number of books you wish to read in the year. Tracking this goal can be as simple as keeping a written list on a sheet a paper or in a journal, or you can go for technology and use a spreadsheet or a book tracking website like GoodReads or The Storygraph. Whether reading five books in a year or 100 books in a year would be a challenge for you, working to read a specific number of books is a great way to keep a reading habit going.

If you’re already an active reader, a popular annual challenge is reading to meet a list of specific tasks or goals. The most well-known challenge of this type is Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge, where readers are given tasks that the books they read must reach, most of which will push the reader to try something new or seek out an author they wouldn’t have read otherwise. Some of my favorite prompts for their 2021 challenge include, Read a book you’ve been intimidated to read; Read a fat-positive romance; and Read a genre novel by an Indigenous, First Nations, or Native American author. These types of challenges are not prescriptive in that they’re telling you what to read, but they encourage you to read outside of the books you might normally choose on your own.

If none of these reading challenges have appealed to you, I have one more idea: pick a challenge that’s meaningful to you. For me, it’s reading Pulitzer Prize winning fiction. One of my colleagues has a goal to read a biography of each American president, and another is using the first four months of the year to read through the four volume Queens of Resistance series of biographies, one a month. A reading challenge doesn’t have to take the whole year, nor does it have to be constrained to a single year! The point is that what you’re reading resonates with you, adds value to your life, or challenges you.

If you’re one of those readers who is unsure of where to start, or want to take on a challenge that you’re unsure how to meet, reach out to your Ames Public Library librarians! We’re happy to help you with your reading goals. Give us a call, send us an e-mail, or complete our new Personalized Picks form to get a custom list of books that can help you meet your personal reading goals, whatever they may be.