Guide to Reading (and Focusing)

Filed under: Mental Health, Tutorials/Guides

Were you one of those kids who used to read shit all the time whenever you got the chance, yet once you hit middle school (or even high school) you could barely force your way through assigned reading, much less books of your own choice? Do you want to feel the same absorption you felt back then when you would just get pulled into a book for hours and focus on it the entire time?

Do you not relate and just want to read stuff but are having a hard time?

FEAR NOT. I have delved into the depths and discovered a method (or, methods) that have led to me being able to read 2-3 entire books all on my own this year. Hopefully more, if I find the time!

Read physical media

One thing I learned pretty easily is that reading anything on your main devices is a one-way ticket to getting distracted. I tried reading through Calibre, nope. I tried reading through the Kindle app, nope. I tried reading through Moon Reader, NOPE. I immediately would open my social media apps or a game to play instead of actually reading. Therefore, you wanna go with physical media instead.

Physical media can either fall into books or eReaders. Personally, I find that books require a bit too much physical effort to hold and turn pages, and I'm kind of a weak dude. Plus, buying books (or printing things out even) can cost a lot of money. Instead, I have a used Kobo Touch that I bought for real cheap off eBay that I just download books onto.

If you go the eReader route, I highly recommend getting an e-ink reader. This means your screen (probably) won't have a backlight but, also, will not leave you susceptible to eyestrain from blue light. You can download books from a number of free/paid/dubious sources online and sync them to your device using Calibre.

Select your font

If it's an option, you should make sure that what you're reading is pretty easily, well, readable. Generally, this will entail line spacing, letter/work spacing, font size, and font selection. This will differ for everyone, so I won't tell you what to do here. What I can do is recommend a few fonts that might help you focus on your reading journey, as opposed to just sticking with Georgia or Calibri. These are ordered by my personal preference:

  • Atkinson Hyperlegible
  • Comic Sans
  • Cadman
  • Sylexiad (serif & sans-serif)
  • Dyslexie
  • OpenDyslexic

What you generally want to look for in a good font is legibility. Sans-serif fonts are best for this, as the hooks on serif fonts can be a little distracting and make the letters less recognizable. You also want to make sure that the different characters are distinct, so you won't mix up one letter for another (think capital I and lowercase l). Sometimes, the exaggeration of certain shapes in letters also aids in differentiation and recognition. These traits increase readability whether you realize it or not! You want to aim for function over form here.

I personally enjoy using Atkinson Hyperlegible and Comic Sans (especially for writing). OpenDyslexic is the most often touted font for ease of reading, but I find it more distracting and cartoony than anything else. Atkinson Hyperlegible is very simple and specifically made for vision-impaired people, so it has pretty clear letter shapes which helps me out.

Find a reading spot

The final thing that I think will help a good reading session is simply having a nice place to read. It works for me to have specific times and places that I like to read. As someone with ADHD, I need to usually fit a couple main criteria:

  1. Free of physical/visual distractions
  2. Sounds that aren't attention-grabbing (white noise)
  3. Physically comfortable.

The main two places I choose to read are down by my local creek and my bedroom. The creek has no options for distraction as long as I don't bring a game console or anything like that since it's very isolated and there's a lot of nice white noise (birds chirping, frogs croaking, water running). My bedroom is also nice because I've got a big beanbag which is hard to want to get up from. I usually will move my electronics downstairs during this time... and since going downstairs is a lotta work, I can stay focused for a whlie. If it's too loud in the house, I put on some headphones and play some brown noise alongside some calming background music to help block out distractions.

More to come, specifically regarding reading smaller passages/on your devices...