We recruited a panel of people living in Scotland to complete regular surveys about their experiences of reading between March and August 2020. The full report, Reading in Scotland: Reading over lockdown is available to read now.
Given the huge upheaval of the pandemic and lockdown, many panellists were struggling to focus on reading, especially during the early weeks of the study:
- 38% told us they had found it difficult to concentrate on reading during the lockdown
- A significant minority of 18% reported that they felt pressure to read more during the lockdown
Many panellists found this frustrating and distressing, especially if reading was something that ordinarily supports their wellbeing or helps them relax:
- 'It has been more difficult this week. Events surrounding my job have been upsetting and I haven't been able to concentrate on reading'
- 'I miss the way I used to be able to fall easily into books. I've only managed to find one book so far that has brought me comfort'
- 'I've again found it more difficult to focus on reading this week. There seems to be a "rollercoaster" of emotions right now, and at the highest anxiety, the first thing to go is reading'
However, over the course of the study many found new formats, genres or habits that helped them find ways back into reading. If you're finding it difficult to focus or reading isn't helping you to relax in the way it normally does, here are a few ideas that may help:
- Choose something you know you'll enjoy. Meeting old friends in the re-read of a favourite can be such a comforting experience. Equally, a page-turning murder mystery can be transporting in a completely different way!
- Try listening to an audiobook – our panel often found that listening was less demanding than reading and helped take their minds away from worries. You can also combine listening with other activities like walking, cooking or gardening.
- Try a shorter format than you would usually – short stories or poems can be read in one sitting and can take you to a completely new world in a matter of minutes; finishing something can give you the wee boost that tackling Moby Dick two pages at a time won't provide for some time yet.
Each week our panel shared reading tips for us to pass on to the other panel members. We received a huge number of tips urging others to be gentle and not expect too much of themselves during a difficult time:
- 'Be kind to yourself. Take comfort in a familiar read and don’t worry about choosing something ‘easier’ than you’re used to. A wee bit of reading is better than no reading at all'
- 'Comfort reading is good. Don’t feel you have to tackle that classic you’ve always meant to read. Go where your mood, inclinations and circumstances lead you. Happy reading!'
- 'Don't try too hard right now. If you're not feeling the book, give up. Now is not the time to push yourself to read something you're not enjoying. Make reading a pleasure, not a punishment. You can always go back to the abandoned book some other time'
Read more about the rights of the reader in lockdown – to reread, to skip and much more.