Neither of my amazing parents had the luxury of a college education. After my brother and I were born, my dad worked not one, but two blue-collar jobs late into the night to make ends meet. Unable to afford daycare, my mom stayed home with us until we were old enough for preschool. At that point, she too went off to work full-time to contribute to our college funds, among other expenses that come with raising two kids.

To pass the time during her stay-at-home-mom days, my mom would take us to the library almost daily. This was primarily because the library was someplace we could go without spending money we didn’t have, but she also used this time to teach us how to read. To this day, she tells me that if she had the chance to go to college, she would’ve studied education to become a teacher.

Learning to read must be one of our earliest, most memorable accomplishments. I don’t remember uttering my first word or taking my first step, but I vividly remember sitting on the floor in my pink ballerina-themed bedroom, attempting to read aloud to myself and finishing my first book. Upon this victorious moment, I remember bolting out of my room to share the news with my mom. Decades later, she still has the book: Skating on Thin Ice by Louise Everett.

In adulthood, I find myself returning to the same library my mom would take us to when we were kids, but these days, I’m not reading Dr. Seuss or The Berenstein Bears. My newfound appreciation for the library surfaced when I needed to escape from distractions and study for the GRE. Since then, I’m reminded of everything the library has to offer to enrich my studies, my career, and my life — and I still don’t have to spend a dime!

We all know the library is a gold mine of knowledge waiting to be discovered, but perhaps it is a forgotten treasure. In an age where Netflix and scrolling through Instagram is the new go-to for leisure time, I’m afraid we’re passing on opportunities to curl up with a good book that will teach us something of value.

News flash: reading books makes you smarter. Want to get ahead in your career? Read. Want to find new interests or explore a hobby that makes you happy? Read. Want to contribute to more meaningful conversations? Read. Want to be a better, more helpful employee, friend, husband, wife, mother, father? The answer to all your questions and problems is buried in a book waiting to be uncovered.

If you’re anything like me, perhaps you’ve tried to read more as part of a New Year’s resolution or goal you’ve set for yourself. You get a random burst of inspiration from time to time and order a book you’ve had your eye on, but after a few pages, a couple chapters, and countless interruptions later, it ends up on your bookshelf — half-read.

I’m here to remind you that even in the 21st century when it seems our attention spans are getting shorter and our to-do lists are getting longer, there is still time to read and learn. Sitting down and reading a book cover-to-cover used to be a lost cause for me, but I realized that I don’t have to attempt to read this way anymore, thanks to audiobooks.

Do you still have a library card? If not, you need to get one because it probably works with an app called Libby, where you can check out audiobooks and eBooks, all in the palm of your hand, for FREE.

I used to be skeptical of audiobooks. I thought I was taking the easy way out if I didn’t hold a book and turn the pages myself — if a random, pre-recorded voice was reading to me. But I was wrong. I’ve read ten books since April, and I retain the information and learn from each of them just as much, if not better, than I would if I read through a hard copy. One thing is for certain, I definitely finish (yes, finish!) books faster.

With Libby, I’ve read books while doing the following:

  • Driving
  • Cleaning
  • Cooking
  • Washing dishes
  • Washing my car
  • Folding laundry
  • Flying / Traveling
  • Running
  • Shopping
  • Sitting in waiting rooms
  • Getting my teeth cleaned
  • Getting my nails done
  • Showering (TMI? But really!)

Rather than skipping out on reading because of a busy lifestyle, I realized I can read to ENHANCE my busy lifestyle without skipping a beat. What better way to kill time while standing in line at Target or sitting hostage during a manicure? By downloading Libby and listening to audiobooks, you can actually make the chores and routines of your every day more enjoyable, allowing you to use this time to your ultimate benefit. Not to mention, it is the perfect way to unwind and destress — you can listen to books while going for a leisurely walk, lounging by the pool, or doing yoga!

And don’t forget that you don’t always have to read non-fiction or a self-help book. Take a mental break by getting lost in a good mystery or romance novel. There’s something special about disconnecting and letting your imagination run wild.

So this weekend I urge you act on your curiosity a bit. Shut down Netflix or your computer and go to your local library to see what it can offer you. Explore some books and topics that interest you, find a quiet place to read or write, or reach out to learn about events, workshops, or volunteer programs. But at the very least, get yourself a library card so you can connect to Libby and unlock new knowledge to empower you.

With your reignited love for reading, you just might feel like a kid again.

“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.” ― Mary Wortley Montagu