5 Best Apps for Tracking Reading

This week I have been challenged. It was not actually a new challenge, but one I was pushed to realize I had not followed through on at all. Not unlike determining our family would try one new recipe a week, or deciding that the chore charts would actually be put to use, or no longer drinking carbonated beverages. It is a recurring problem I have, the whole “follow through” thing.

Lately, I have a growing sense of foreboding in regards to the amount of time I waste on social media sites. I won’t even try to pretend that I don’t love social media, because I do. Social media sites are an introverts dream. I get to “interact” with the world from the comfort of my couch. I can keep in touch with people who are hundreds, even thousands of miles away. I can consume mass amounts of information, real and false, about the world, those dear to me, and the place I once called home. Except, I have felt my tenuous hold on the balance between real life and virtual life slipping ever so slightly.

Then came the challenge. In an article for the Washington Post titled “The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul,” Philip Yancey discusses how the internet has trained his mind against disciplined reading. This excellent treatise on the distracted mind.

Charles Chu calculates that at an average reading speed of 400 words per minute, it would take 417 hours in a year to read 200 books—less than the 608 hours the average American spends on social media, or the 1,642 hours watching TV. “Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books,” says Quartz: “It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important.” Willpower alone is not enough, he says. We need to construct what he calls “a fortress of habits.”

 

If I were to spend even half the time I spend on the internet reading or writing instead, I would recover many hours. These recovered hours would do wonders for my soul. But because of my aforementioned struggle with follow through, I realized that I would need assistance building my “fortress of habits.”

To find that assistance, I started looking for apps that would allow me to track reading times and scan books read. Chances are you are probably already well aquainted with “the big 4:” Kindle, Overdrive, Audible, and Goodreads. While I use each of these apps almost daily and appreciate the different features they offer, I wondered what else was “out there.” I thought I had found an excellent app, only to find out it no longer exists. So I kept looking.

Here are my thoughts on what I found.

Best:

  • Kobo – My favorite feature of this app is the “Reading Activity” section. It is just what I have been looking for. I have high hopes for this app.
  • Bookopolis – For kids, this is by far the best reading app I have come across. I haven’t been able to find an Android version of the app yet. But what I have seen of it for iPhone/Pad users looks excellent. It also has timing, record keeping features, as well as many, many book lists. Even if you don’t use the app, their website is a must use site.

Best with Monthly Fees:

  • Epic! – This app looks like the dream. There is a flat fee of $7.99 a month. With that you are able to set up four individual accounts, track each account’s reading progress, and access thousands of books. If I were going to pay a monthly fee for an app, this would be the one. Teachers, you are able to use this app without the monthly fee!
  • BookMate – I really liked the features this app has. If you are looking for an audiobook reader, this is a very good one. There is a monthly fee of $9.99 though and that seems a bit high for what they offer.

Best Basics:

  • Reading Log – There is nothing fancy about this app. In fact one of the biggest complaints about it is the interface and outdated appearance. But with that aside, if you are looking for an app to track your reading, Reading Log does that. It is easy to use and doesn’t waste time with the frills.

While falling down the rabbit hole that is any internet search, I discovered a great deal about book related apps. For example, did you know that if you are an Amazon Prime member you have access to free, yes free, streaming of books and podcasts on Audible? If you sign into Audible with your Amazon sign in and then go to Audible “Channels,” you have access to free streaming of any of the books and podcasts there!

Now to climb out of the rabbit hole and follow through!

 

 

 

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26 Mysteries for the Budding Detective

Literary detectives. Literary detectives are the absolute coolest. They get the long trench coat, the hat, the flip style notepad, the pencil, and all the swagger. They research, inspect, follow leads, evade red herrings, think, rethink, ask questions, exhaust all theories, and ultimately find answers. They captivate the imagination and set loose the possibilities.

Since the day I held my first blue and yellow book and read about a girl named Nancy Drew, I have been drawn to stories of mystery and intrigue. Whether about her, or a couple of brothers with the last name Hardy, or a group of orphaned siblings who occasionally have a boxcar for a home, or the moustached Hercule Poirot, or the honorable Lord Peter Wimsey, or the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau, or the fantastic Precious Ramotswe, or the quintessential Sherlock Holmes; there are few things more satisfying and thoroughly entertaining than solving a mystery alongside these excellent literary sleuths.

Stories of mysterious adventures are great fun, not only for the individual reader, but also for the whole family or classroom to enjoy together. Many a childhood road trip has been passed with my family listening to mysteries. On one memorable trip, we went through a Sherlock Holmes phase. To this day, my sisters and I will quote bits from The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was our favorite of the audiobooks.

If your child or student is looking for some light, fun summer reading, look no further. Below are some mysterious tales sure to get their inquisitive minds racing.

Picture Books

Early Chapter Books

Middle Grade Chapter Books

Now, if only someone could help me solve these mysteries:

  1. How did the couch get wet? (It could be water, right?!)
  2. Why does my Netflix account now load up the “Kids” account, when I *know* I was the last one to watch anything? (My 1234 password is AIR.TIGHT.)
  3. What happened to my copy of The Westing Game? (I distinctly remember having it in 2002.)
  4. How did glitter get on my toothbrush? (Please tell me it is just from someone’s sparkly lip gloss!)
  5. What will I find at the end of this trail of chocolate chips? (A pot of gold, surely!)

The iPod Tax

My grandmother had this cross-stitched picture in her house for, well I don’t know exactly, but for all the years I remember.

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It has long been one of my favorites. Now I have it in my house. It reminds me that it’s alright; things are not always going to go as planned. It reminds me to relax, laugh, and go with it. Tomorrow will be better…maybe. “(Grand)Mama said there’d be days like this.” (Thanks, Shirelles!)

Right now, I find myself in need of this reminder. Because, I have done something from which I am not certain there is any recovery. It has me second guessing everything. Before I tell you what I have done:

My first daughter loved reading from the moment she was born. I remember reading to her at two weeks old and I swear she was cooing and tracking the words with her eyes. She loved learning to read, she loved progressing as a reader, and she still loves to read to this day. My second daughter loved being cuddled and hearing stories. Being read to suited/suits her very well. She also enjoyed learning to read. She was exceptional at sounding out words right from the start, which made learning to read pretty easy for her. As I have admitted previously, it took her longer to find her footing as an independent reader. But since realizing her independence, she has become a voracious reader. She reads in the car. She reads in her room for hours. She uses a flashlight to read late into the night. All of it.

Now my third daughter, my third daughter has changed the game. She loves being read to as much as the next kid, but she has absolutely zero, and I mean that literally, zero interest in learning to read. At least from me. She knows all the rules. She knows the sight words. She knows what to do. But I sit down with a book to have her read to me and you would think all the fairies in the world have died. There is moaning, rolling on the ground, sobbing, all manner of shenanigans at the merest hint that I may ask her to read out loud to me.

So, half way through our summer break, I panicked. And panicking, I stepped in the proverbial “it” of my grandmother’s picture.

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I bribed my child to read. But not only that, it gets worse. I called that bribe a tax. Yes, I am literally and metaphorically “taxing” my child to read.

I know! Yes, you are right, it goes against everything you are supposed to do. Yes, you are right, I easily could have thought of a different way. Yes, you are right, there is no reason to panic, every child progresses at their own pace. You are right about all of it. But here’s the thing: it’s working.

My third daughter loves drama and music and dress up and drama (did I mention that?) more than most six year-olds. One of her favorite things to do is take the iPod into her room for resting time and dress up, sing, and make up plays. She can do this for actual hours, happily. A few days ago, after a particularly frustrating (for both of us) session of “read out loud to mom,” I told her that if she wanted the iPod in her room, she would have to pay me an iPod tax. That tax is reading out loud to me for 20 minutes. I know, I KNOW, you are right. But…it’s working.

She has willing read out loud to me two days in a row (and counting.) Have I potentially caused her to see reading as a tax, literally and figuratively? Probably. Have I extrinsically rather than intrinsically motivated her? Absolutely. Have I taught her that electronic devices are the reward and actual books-in-hand reading are simply the means? Likely.

But for two days (and counting), she has sat by my side without a moan, groan, or sob and read. Out loud. To me. I’m not going to lie, I am having a hard time seeing the downside, short-sighted as that may be.

As with everything involving the care and instruction of children, time will tell.