Streaking With Jenna: Start a reading habit with Jenna Bush Hager in 2023
This much is true: There’s no shortage of books out there to read. But ask anyone past the age of visiting the library in elementary school, and they’re likely to say that finding time to read can be tough. Between personal, familial and professional obligations — plus reading slumps and even the price of a paperback — there can be numerous challenges between you and your next favorite book.
So in 2023, Jenna Bush Hager is inviting you to overcome those obstacles and make reading a habit with Streaking With Jenna. If you'd like to take part in the challenge, the goal is simple: Read every single day, no matter how little or how much.
"I'm so excited to streak with all of you this year!" Jenna says. "And take your mind out of the gutter — not that kind of streaking! For those who want to read more, I hope that Read With Jenna can be your place for inspiration and encouragement. And now, it's time to come read and streak with us."
For Jenna — the daughter of a librarian — reading has been a lifelong joy, compelling her to get lost in books, like the time she read “The Secret History,” on spring break in college, or the many nights she's stayed up past her bedtime with a book as a parent of three. That’s why she says she always makes time for books, even when it gets “pretty tricky” to do so as a parent and TODAY show anchor.
By keeping up a reading streak, Jenna hopes that you, too, will fall in love with reading — whether it’s for the first time or once again.
“I love reading for so many reasons. It really is my escape from everyday life. It’s how I calm down. It’s how I detach. It’s how I fall in love with other places that I will never go to. It’s how I empathize with characters who are nothing like me. There’s nothing like falling in love with a book,” she says.
Below, find out more about Streaking With Jenna, from how to participate, to why you should. Happy streaking!
How do I participate in Streaking With Jenna?
The rules of “Streaking With Jenna” are simple. Read every day — that’s it. You can read for a minute in the driveway; five minutes before bed; or half a book while everyone else has gone to sleep. All your pages count.
Why should I participate — what's the benefit?
Connecticut-based psychologist Holly Schiff says there are multiple proven benefits to reading regularly, including:
Reading keeps our minds young: “Reading is a mentally stimulating activity that increases the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain. It can also help delay cognitive decline and impairment and is associated with better cognitive function,” Schiff says. A 2021 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that a cognitively active lifestyle could delay the onset of dementia.
It’s a healthy escape: "Even just temporarily, reading takes you out of your world and mind and into another world," Schiff says of reading, which leads to stress reduction. In fact, one 2009 study concluded 30 minutes of reading had the same effects as 30 minutes of yoga in decreasing acute stress.
It increases empathy: “Reading provides us the opportunity to take other peoples’ perspectives in a safe and distanced way, and actually improves the reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling,” Schiff says. A 2013 study found that reading helped people understand other's mental states.
It increases connection: Schiff says books may help you identify with others in similar circumstances — or just make you feel less alone. Researchers at the University at Buffalo showed, in a 2011 study asking undergraduate students to read "Twilight" or Harry Potter, that the effects of reading can actually mimic social interaction.
Tracking a streak, or a continues chain of repeating a task daily, is an effective tool for habit forming, Dr. Schiff says: “Growing a streak inherently increases your motivation.” Streaking also eliminates procrastination; gives a mood boost, hones skills and builds confidence: "You see that you have committed to something and accomplished it — no matter how trivial."
How do I keep track of my streak?
Measure your progress using the calendar below, which allows you to track your streak in 30-day increments.
We’ve also provided an Instagram version so you can share your progress with your friends and followers. Be sure to use the hashtag #StreakingWithJenna.
Schiff says that involving a visual element, like a calendar, in your streak is essential for building motivation, excitement and confidence. “This helps you visually see the progress you are making every day, and as your streak starts to grow, it develops your motivation because of the momentum you have gained. It will build further commitment and dedication,” she says.
Printable streak tracker: Days 1-30
Download a printable calendar here.
Instagram streak tracker: Days 1-30
Printable streak tracker: Days 31-60
Instagram streak tracker: Days 31-60
Printable streak tracker: Days 61-90
Download a character here
Instagram streak tracker: Days 61-90
And how do I keep track of what I read?
What books are you diving into this year? Share the books you've perused on your reading streak, whether they are cozy mysteries or the buzzy new releases of 2023. We'll be updating these graphics monthly.
Printable books tracker: January
Download a printable reading tracker here.
Instagram books tracker: January
Printable books tracker: February
Instagram books tracker: February
Printable books tracker: March
Instagram books tracker: March
For inspiration, try out our 2023 Read With Jenna Bingo
For an extra challenge, try reading books that fall into these categories throughout the year.
Printable 2023 book bingo
Print out your 2023 book bingo here.
Instagram 2023 book bingo
What if I already read every day?
If you already read every day (we see you, lifelong bookworms!), then we invite you to define your own streak. Here are a few recommendations from the Read With Jenna team.
Read before bed, or wake up a few minutes early to read in the morning.
Spend more time every day reading than usual.
Try to finish a chapter or at least 20 pages each day.
Keep track of every book you read, or even write reviews for each.
Let us know what a streak means to you by messaging Read With Jenna’s Instagram for a chance to have your definition shared with other readers.
Do I win anything if I keep up my streak?
YES! We’ll be inviting participants to join in activities throughout the year. And the best part? Readers who keep up the streak will be eligible for giveaways and to participate in events with Jenna.
What happens if I break my streak?
Miss a day? Don’t let that deter you from continuing to keep track.
“Life is busy and things will inevitably get in the way sometimes, so it’s important to be kind to yourself if you do miss a day. Knowing that you can begin again at any time helps us to not negate all the good habit building actions we’ve done so far, just because we’ve missed one or two days. Start over and remind yourself why you want to build this habit in the first place,” mindfulness coach Greenslade says.
Okay, I'm in! Now...can I get some tips for how to read more?
Greenslade shares a rule of thumb for habit forming to keep in mind as you “streak” with Jenna: “In order to form a new habit you need to practice the specific action for at least 30 days. At this point it will start to become more automatic,” she tells TODAY.com.
But to sustain a streak, you may need to confront some of the obstacles that are keeping you from reading currently. Maybe you don’t know what to read next, or maybe your current schedule makes reading regularly a challenge.
So here on TODAY.com, we’ll be regularly sharing advice on how to read more — but to get you started, here’s are some tips:
Read what you like: If you’re enjoying the book you read, you’ll keep reading — which is why Jenna says it’s OK to “quit reading” a book after a certain point. “Read something you’re interested in,” Schiff, tells TODAY.com. “If you are reading about a topic you enjoy, or you think the plot is of interest, you will have an easier time maintaining attention since the topic is exciting, stimulating and of interest to you.”
Leave your phone in another room: Jenna says that her phone is a distraction when it comes to reading — so she avoids temptation by leaving it in another room entirely. She gets much of her reading done in her technology-free room. “I bring in books, put my phone away and read,” Jenna says.
Bring your books with you: Jenna’s trick for reading? Don’t leave the house without a book. “I always have a book in my purse,” Jenna says.
Join a book club: “It gives you a sense of community and company when reading and you will be able to have fruitful conversations and discuss how differently everyone can interpret the same literature,” Schiff says.
Use your ears: Read With Jenna author Jamie Ford swears by audiobooks, and says they make daily life more fun. “I find that when I’m really into an audio book, I make up reasons to do things. I’m going to clean the garage today so we can just listen to this audio book for three more hours to finish,” he tells TODAY.com.
Find an "anchor": Greenslade recommends identifying something you already do every day, from having your first cup of coffee in the morning, to getting in to bed last thing at night. “Add your new reading intention to this existing habit. It will remind you to do it. It’s easy to forget things we want todo in our busy lives. For example, when you get into bed at night you will read for 5 minutes before switching out the light,” she says.
For more, check out this article on reading tips. And now, ready, set, go: Happy streaking!
This article was originally published on TODAY.com