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Why E-Reading Was My Saving Grace for Reading With ADHD

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I love stories. In fact, it’s why I’ve made it my entire life. I write manuscripts, here for work, for the screen, and in various other formats. Reading has always been such a fundamental part of my life but as I got older, it became harder to read. Once upon a time, I’d read up to 20 to 30 books in three months. The past few years I’ve been lucky to read even seven a year. It didn’t make sense because I loved reading so much, but I just couldn’t get my brain to cooperate. 

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That is, until I got an e-reader, specifically an iPad. 

I wasn’t intending to switch to an e-reader, if anything because I liked to think I was a traditionalist. That fresh book smell, paired with feeling the pages under your fingertips, is unlike anything else. I still think that. I felt that switching to an e-reader would take away reading as an experience, and that’s why I was hesitant. Due to a long trip that I have coming up, I had no choice but to at least try e-reading. I begrudgingly tried it, and I haven’t looked back since. Since using my iPad, I’ve read almost four books in one month (for fun), something I haven’t done since I was a preteen. 

I was trying to figure out why it was so much easier for me to read digitally, and after sitting with it I think it largely is due to my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Here’s why:

1. The screen itself.

OK, I’m going to keep it a buck with y’all. There is no science backing up this theory in the sense that I couldn’t find any study to support it, and I really did just try. So this is my theory, and not medical or scientific in any sense.

I read that digital screens tend to light up parts of our brains that keep us more alert. Because I’m reading from a digital screen, that part of my brain that keeps me alert is being triggered when reading, thus helping keep my attention. 

Makes sense, right? Of course, I’m not a doctor or scientist, but in my eyes, this makes complete sense.

2. I have to intentionally check to see how far I am in a book.

When you’re reading a book, you can see when you’re halfway, closer to the end, or at the beginning. Sometimes when I’m starting a book I get intimidated seeing just how much I have to go. On the contrary, at the bottom of my screen, I’ll see “Page 45 out of 234” which is similar, but different as the visualization isn’t there in front of me. On top of that, I like seeing the percentage of how much I’ve read in the book. It motivates me to keep reading. Do I know why? No. But it helps.

3. Less overwhelm overall!

If you’re a book lover or collector, you know what it’s like to have a to-be-read list that’s longer than a CVS receipt. Sometimes looking at all the books on my bookshelves overwhelms me to the point that I don’t read anything. For some reason, looking at my catalog of books on my iPad is the complete opposite. Is it that different? No. In fact, as digital books are cheaper I may be racking up an even longer TBR list. That being said, because I’m both reading faster and it’s not displayed physically in front of me, I tend to forget all the books I haven’t read exist, until I’m ready to read them. Object permanence plays into my favor here, and because of it, I read more.

4. You can control the settings.

You can’t change the font, colors, or text size in a book. To be fair, I like that in a lot of ways because it’s a part of the book experience, but I won’t front. Being able to switch the page settings around in a way that’s visibly satisfying helps so much too. The flexibility is such a sensory win. 

Ultimately, I’m still going to buy physical books when I can, as I love having them; however, I’m way more productive when I’m reading digitally. If you live with ADHD, I suggest giving it a try. I resisted as long as I could, but I’m happily a convert now. Give it a shot. You never know what’ll work for you until you try. 

Take a trip into our Mighty Library for our health-related book recommendations:

Getty image by Lordn

Originally published: August 4, 2022
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