How to Have a Happy Read-a-Thon

BlogHer Original Post

What are you doing Saturday, April 21? I have just the thing for you. Clear your schedule, grab a pile of snacks, build an even greater pile of books and join bloggers from all over as they participate in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. Starting Saturday morning, readers will be dropping everything to band together and honor one of our own by doing what we do best -- reading a heck of a lot of books.

The 24 Hour Read-a-Thon was started by Dewey back in October 2007. She was inspired by her husband and son when they attended 24 Hour Comics Day. She figured if they could spend a day reading comics, she could certainly spend a day reading books. That first round, there were 27 participants and Dewey hoped to make it an annual event. It now runs twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, and there are over 300 people signed up for the April 2012 round. I only wish that Dewey were still alive to see it.

Dewey died in November 2008, just one year after she created the event that has become a cornerstone of the book blogging community. I am so thankful to the bloggers that took up the Read-a-thon torch after Dewey's death. I haven't been able to participate in every Read-a-Thon but whether I'm reading or just watching from the sidelines, I've always enjoyed it. I won't be able to participate this round. I'll be spending most of Saturday in the car and doing my own version of the Read-a-Thon, which will involve reading only if I've managed to avoid motion sickness. But if you are considering signing up for Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon I have some tips that might help you.

Sassymonkey's Tips for a Successful Read-a-Thon

Do What You Can: I've participated in several Read-a-Thon's but there's only been one where I've really been available for the full 24 hours. If the most you can swing is five hours, or even two hours, then that's the most you can do. Sometimes you just can't clear your schedule. Or one of your kids gets sick. Or you forgot that you previously made plans. I know many people stay up all night to read but I've never been able to manage it. I always fall asleep while reading, which is probably a good thing because I can be kind of cranky when I stay up all night. No one is grading you on how many hours you read.

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Credit: Carolyn Tiry on Flickr

Variety is Key: The Read-a-Thon sounds like a great chance to catch up on those books you really need to read and it can be. I've used it to dig into my stack of review copies and catch up on library books. Between those books though, and especially later in the day, it can be really great to turn to something totally different than what you usually read. Mix some lighter books in with the heavier stuff. My ideal Read-a-Thon pile would include some of those books I really need to read but also a selection of young adult, middle grade, and graphic novels. A few romance novels can go a long way to bring back the fun factor when I'm feeling tired. I like to jump between modern, historical and fantasy settings. I don't want to feel like I'm reading the same thing all day unless...

Make it a Theme Day: This goes in the complete opposite direction of what I suggested above. I still think it's a good idea to have a variety of options on hand, but I've often thought it would be really fun to do a themed Read-a-Thon. You could make a serious dent in a series in 24 hours. Or you could focus on a single author. I've always thought Roald Dahl would be fun on Read-a-Thon day.

Take Breaks: You will probably realize after just a few hours of reading that 24 hours of reading sounds heavenly but in actuality it is really a lot of reading. Take a break and participate in one of the mini-challenges that are announced and updated hourly on the Read-a-thon site. Take a walk around the block. Do some yoga.

Plan Your Snacks: You brain needs fuel to keep reading! Maybe. Or maybe Read-a-Thon is just a really good excuse to snack. I always have some candy in my snack stash (mmmm candy) but if I eat too much I know I'll end up crashing and taking a nap on my book instead of reading it. Some of my favorite things to keep on hand for reading marathon snacks are pre-cut veggies and dip, sliced cheese and yogurt. I'm extra happy if there's jalapeno cornbread.

Keep Dinner Simple: I like to use Read-a-Thon as an excuse to order take-out. If we've done take-out a little too often, or if I've maybe bought too many books for the Read-a-thon and used up my take-out budget (oops?), the slow cooker is my friend. So are sandwiches.

Involve the Family: Sometimes the hardest part of Read-a-Thon is keeping all those other people we live with from interrupting our quality reading time! I don't have kids but I've watched my reading friends with kids handle the Read-a-Thon. Some of their kids, especially the older ones, love participating in the Read-a-thon with them. They get their own book stacks. With younger kids some people have done a mix of private reading time and family read aloud time. I won't deny it's easier when you have the house to yourself for part of the time. My most successful Read-a-Thon was the year it coincided with my husband's annual golf weekend. Going back to my first point, read when you can and don't sweat it.

Remember It's Not a Competition: Some people will read a whole lot of books. Some people will list the number of pages they've read and it will twice the number of pages you read. Some people will do all that and participate in mini-challenges and update their blogs and tweet and that's awesome. Me? Can't do it. I can read or I can read and blog for a few minutes but I can't do it all and that's cool. It's about the books and the community. It's not a race.

Have Fun: That's the whole point of Read-a-Thon. Have a good time. Read good books. Enjoy yourself.

Have you ever participated in the Read-a-Thon? Are you signing up for this round?

BlogHer Book Club Host Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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