Reading for Educators
Experts say that U.S. educators are currently experiencing a mental health crisis. With all the stress and challenges teachers are facing, the idea of “practicing self-care” can sometimes feel like an empty platitude.
Self-care won’t fix the deeper-rooted issues in education, but it’s something positive that’s within our control. Actively practicing self-care in a way that feels right to you has many powerful benefits. It improves your physical and mental health, helps you feel more energized, and can ward off burnout.
So, over the next few months, we’re sharing some practical ideas on self-care for educators. This week, our focus is reading as an act of self-care!
We recently sent out an e-mail asking our readers (teachers) to name an act of self-care they had done for themselves in the past week. Of the 273 replies, 30 mentioned reading. In this post, we’ll explain why reading belongs in your self-care toolbox, along with tips and suggestions for making reading a part of your routine.
Why Reading = Self-Care
You may not think of reading as an act of self-care, but it’s a great way to relax, get whisked away to another world, and tap into your imagination.
Studies show that reading can actually lessen symptoms of depression. It provides a sense of relief and escape from real-world worries and problems.
Similarly, research shows reading can improve your sleep schedule by helping you relax and unwind in preparation for a good night’s rest. We all know the value of feeling rested in the morning. But did you know sleep also enhances your physical and mental health, mood, and productivity?
So, cuddling up with a good book is a calming way to kick back after a long day at school. When you’re absorbed in a book you enjoy, the stress and difficulties of daily life drift to the back of your mind. Reading is a fun escape that can sharpen your mind, lift your mood, improve sleep, and even combat symptoms of depression.
Ideas for Reading as an Act of Self-Care
When you read for self-care, it’s helpful to read a book that isn’t heavy or academic. Choose books that have nothing to do with work or professional development.
You can enhance reading as an act of self-care with cozy seating, warm blankets, scented candles, or a peaceful location.
For some more inspiration, let’s look to our readers!
Tips from Our Readers
In our email survey, we asked teachers to name an act of self-care they had done in the past week. Here are some of the responses related to reading as an act of self-care:
- “My self-care has been to take time to read a book just for myself. Taking time to read before rushing to do anything else that “must” be done has been relaxing for me!” -Diane D.
- “I went out to the back porch (hid from my family) and read a book. :)” -Jessica H.
- “I took my coffee outside on an unusually cool morning & read for almost an hour. It’s been too hot & humid before, but Monday was gorgeous!” -Linda N.
- “This is the first year I have taken time just to lay in bed (instead of getting up and doing things) and read fictional stories that have nothing to do for school. I love reading but normally read novels for school. I’ve been enjoying books just for me.” -Sandy Z.
- “I allowed myself an hour and a half to sit on a rocker on the front porch and read. It was awesome!” -Lori J.
- “I laid in the hammock and read a book! And not one for school, it was one for pleasure. “-Eva G.
- “I have made time to read ‘fun books,’ and I even treated myself to Kindle Unlimited for two months instead of worrying about library late fees.” -Theresa S.
- “I stayed in bed a little longer this morning so I could read two more chapters of my favorite book genre – a cozy mystery.” -Denise B.
If you haven’t found a favorite genre yet, look into book forums on sites like Reddit or Goodreads. If you list a few books you’ve enjoyed in the past on Goodreads, you’ll receive recommendations for similar books you may like.
Some authors I’ve enjoyed recently are Janelle Brown, Jennifer Egan, Matt Haig, Tana French, Emily St. John Mandel, Caroline Leavitt, and Liane Moriarty.
Whatever book you decide to read, try to find a comfy location, a favorite snack or drink, and a place you can relax on your own. Add a nice touch like candles, a robe, or a fuzzy blanket, and enjoy giving yourself reading as an act of self-care.
Promoting Reading for Students
Our students are stressed too, and that adds stress to our classrooms and lives. You can encourage your students to also enjoy the self-care benefits of reading by:
- Being a good role model of how reading is an act of self-care for you.
- Emphasize that reading can be fun. Suggest books that match the interests and passions of your students, so they can find interesting stories they enjoy.
- If possible, provide a comfortable and enjoyable reading corner for the kids in your classroom. Colorful posters, beanbag chairs, or a shelf of exciting books can go a long way.
- Give students the opportunity to use their imagination and write and/or illustrate stories of their own.
Final Thoughts: Reading as an Act of Self-Care
Reading is imaginative, relaxing, peaceful, and fun. Making time for yourself to get absorbed with a story, setting, and characters you love benefits both you and the students you work with every week.
Your job is incredibly important and challenging, and the entire community benefits when you’re at your best.
Reading as an act of self-care is an excellent way to make time for you, and you deserve it!