As kids gear up to go back to school, I suddenly realize how long it has been since I truly spent some good ol' fashioned time with a book in my hands.

I used to love reading.  Don't get me wrong.  I still read.  I read all the time—status updates, tweets, the newspaper, emails, memorandum.  Don't we all?  But I recently realized that the amount of time I devote to reading books and increasing my personal knowledge base could use a little bit of love.

Why is it important to read?  That's a question I'm sure many parents have had to field from their children.  But believe it or not, there are more reasons than the good ol' standby "because I said so."  Reading has actually been proven to reduce stress, strengthen our sense of empathy, and develop critical thinking skills.  Not to mention that learning new things helps us adapt to change and keeps us involved in society.  But above all, the best thing about books is the way they transport you to a different place.  That's why this August, I'm making a commitment to myself to start reading again.

There are lots of fun and easy ways to foster a reading habit, whether you've never been fond of reading or have strayed away from the bookshelf recently.  Check out these techniques I plan on using:

       1)   Find a group - Being held accountable for your commitments is one of the best ways to stick to them.  Just like many people find it easier to stick to a fitness plan with a workout buddy, you might find it easier to read with a group.  There are lots of ways to find a group when it comes to reading.  You could join a book club at the local library or start one yourself.  Perhaps your family would like to start their own book club.  This is a great way to get kids in on the reading fun at an early age.  Reading with others provides insights and resources that you might have never thought of.

       2)   Choose books that interest you - No one is telling you that you need to dash out and start reading Dickens in order to reap the benefits of reading.  Read what you like, whether that's serial romance or sci-fi novellas, non-fiction, or established literature.  My best tip for this?  Grab a book and start reading, if it hasn't caught your attention 25-35 pages in, put it down and find another book.  There's no shame in saying that a book just isn't for you.

       3)   Read outside of your normal timetable - Who says when reading should happen?  When you've found a book you love, this one is easy.  It's hard to put down an engrossing story.  So remember not to limit yourself to the half hour before you fall asleep.  Carry your current book with you and read whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Most importantly, remember that reading should be fun!  Until next time, I'll see you guys at the library!