Reading & ADHD

Reading & ADHD

Read any good books lately? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a few on the go but lack the focus to finish them. Having a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t always lead to giving up on books - many of us are dedicated readers who can spend hours absorbed in interesting books, magazines and articles. So, what’s the connection?

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Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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A word form our expert

One Page at a Time: An ADHD Guide to Reading

Oh, how I love the smell of a new book, the texture of its pages, and the promises it holds! 📚 For a fleeting moment, I'm captivated, ready to dive into a new world or idea. But let's be honest; having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can make this love affair with reading a bit of a rollercoaster. One minute, I'm devouring novels like a literary connoisseur, and the next, I lose interest faster than you can say ‘plot twist.’ 🤯 

If this push-pull relationship with reading feels familiar, you're not alone. Many adults and even kids with ADHD know the struggle. Our reading skills, especially reading comprehension, can be a battlefield where focus and distraction wage war. 

Some of us are learning in school, navigating assigned reading lists, whilst others may find themselves sifting through long documents for work. Many of us read for pleasure, too - but when ADHD shows up, what should be an opportunity for escapism can be a frustrating battle with distraction. 🧨

In this article, we're diving deep into why people with attention deficit disorder might find it challenging to start (or finish) an entire book or why hyper focus might take over, making us neglect everything else. We'll unpack strategies to manage these struggles in manageable chunks so that you can stay focused and make your reading experience as enjoyable as possible. 🤩

Are you ready to switch up the narrative and learn how to get on top of that reading list? ✅

Why Starting a Book Can Be Tough with ADHD

There's something magical about the promise of new stories and the thrill of buying a new book. ✨This can feel like a straight shot of dopamine - but then comes the reality of starting the book. If you're like me, this is where the struggle kicks in, big time.

See, people with ADHD tend to love novelty. Our brains are buzzing with excitement over the new possibilities, but then we sit down to get started, and the focus is gone. 🙄

This was a recurring theme during my school years - I'd spend hours, sometimes even days, just to get through a single article or meet a deadline. Over the years, I began to question if I had a learning disability affecting my reading ability. But a few months post-diagnosis, it clicked - the culprit behind my reading struggles was neurodiversity. 💡

So, what can help with getting started - and how can we resist impulse buying books? First, consider making a list of books you're interested in and wait a day or two before making that purchase. You'd be surprised how often something seems ‘must-read’ at that moment but less so a couple of days later. 

For example, I have an endless reading list of different genres. There's something for every mood - from light, easy reads to longer, complex ones. 😂 It means I can choose something based on my mood and how focused I'm feeling at that moment. 

You could also try a book swap club. ♻️ It's a double win - you get to cycle through different genres and dodge the financial guilt from impulsively buying books.

Why Sticking to a Book Can Be Tough with ADHD

So, you're all set with a good book, cozied up in your favorite reading nook, and then you start thinking about dinner plans, tomorrow's to-do list, or even what you'll read next. 🤐Now, we know that distractibility is a standard part of our experience - but what can we do to make reading more achievable?

Committing to reading for just 10 minutes or completing one chapter can be less overwhelming and more doable. These mini-milestones can boost your sense of accomplishment and help keep your focus sharp. 🎯

If you struggle to pick up where you left off when returning to a book, you could use bookmarks with summaries of the last chapter you read. This way, a quick glance can jog your memory, and you're not wasting time re-reading. This can be particularly handy for academic reading, which can be wordy and complex.

There's also an emerging trend called 'bionic reading'. It's a handy digital extension you can use that highlights specific bold letters on an app or website, prompting your brain to fill in the rest. Around 50% of the text appears in bold, and this unique layout aims to help you read with more focus and fewer distractions. 🔍

While Bionic Reading has been anecdotally praised for its potential benefits, it's worth noting that it has yet to undergo rigorous scientific research. 

Finally, remember to set the environment for reading; find a comfy, quiet corner that lets you dive into your book without the usual noise and interruptions. 🤫 Some people find that brown noise as a background sound keeps their ADHD brains more centered and focused. 

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When Reading Becomes An Obsession

Hyperfocus and ADHD often go hand-in-hand, and when it comes to reading, this can be both a blessing and a curse. When you're in the hyperfocus zone, you can read intensely, zipping through a book faster than usual. 🏃Your reading comprehension might peak, and you can get through many pages quickly.

However, the downside is that it can make you lose track of time and neglect other responsibilities. Time management can become a real issue, especially if you have other tasks to complete or people, like kids or family, depending on you. 😬

So, how do we make the most of hyperfocus without letting it take over our lives? One practical tip is to set an alarm as a reminder to break your reading session. ⏰When the alarm goes off, it prompts you to evaluate your to-do list and see what needs your attention. This helps you balance your focus with other life responsibilities.

Audiobooks are a lifesaver for those of us with ADHD. You can listen while tackling chores, making it easier to juggle your love for reading and daily responsibilities. It's a win-win: you stay engrossed in the story and still get stuff done. 🎧  Audiobooks are great for kids with ADHD, too, as many find it easier to focus and listen when they can move around. There are many platforms you can subscribe to, with some offering unlimited titles that you can pick up and drop as you wish. 😋

When We Read, But Don't Understand

We've all been there: reading an article or book, eyes gliding over words but not grasping what's being said. For many with ADHD, myself included, understanding what we've read can sometimes be challenging. 

The term ‘mind-wandering’ really sums it up. You're reading a paragraph, but your brain has checked out, already thinking about dinner, your weekend plans, or that email you forgot to reply to. And sometimes, you find yourself reading the same paragraph repeatedly just to decode what the author is trying to say. 😵 It's not about enthusiasm or the lack of it - it can also be down to impulsivity or hyperactivity.

For example, trying to blaze through a book at lightning speed often messes with how well I grasp the material. When racing against the clock, I catch myself skimming over text and glancing at pictures but not absorbing the meaning. As much as I know it's a habit that doesn't serve me, it's tough to break when I'm pressed for time. This need for speed was especially tricky when cramming for exams; I found it hard to retain what I needed to know. 🙈

As I mentioned before, one of my personal game-changers has been audiobooks. I absorb the material differently when it comes through my ears, and my hands are busy with something else. 🎧

Interactive reading methods can also be super helpful. Keep a notebook close by and jot down questions, underline phrases, or make little doodles in the margins of a physical book. ✍🏽These tactics engage your brain differently, increasing your chances of comprehension and retention. 

It can be tempting to rush through reading articles or books to meet a deadline, but speed can be your enemy regarding reading comprehension. Taking frequent breaks is essential, especially if your eyes are just skating over the page without taking in the words. Reading in shorter bursts can improve how we read and what we take away from it. 

How Reading Can Become a Hobby (and Why It Might Lose Its Spark)

Finding a hobby that sticks is a rarity for many of us with ADHD - but occasionally, we can maintain one and turn it into a long-term pastime.

The challenge of sticking with hobbies when you have ADHD has a scientific basis: our brains 🧠 are searching for dopamine, that feel-good hormone. If a hobby stops delivering that dopamine rush, our interest drops 📉, and we often move on to something else. 

To mitigate this when reading, don't limit yourself to one genre; variety is the spice of life and could be the key to maintaining your reading interest. Historical fiction today, a thriller tomorrow, and maybe some graphic novels in between - keeping your brain engaged is the secret behind long-term success. 🏆

A book club that's understanding of neurodiversity can also offer you the social motivation you might lack when it's just you and a book. Plus, discussing what you read can deepen your comprehension and make the whole experience more enjoyable.


If you can't zoom through an entire book in one go, you're not 'bad' at reading - you're human! Take the time you need to absorb the words and the world the author has created. You might need a week (or months!) to finish a book, and guess what? That's totally fine!

Life is complex enough; hobbies like reading shouldn't add stress but improve your well-being. 🌈 There are many helpful strategies to keep us engaged and focused, but reading is one of those fantastic activities that should be as stress-free as possible. Find that comfy spot, curl up, and let the pages transport you to different worlds. Your mental health will thank you, and the experience can be a wonderful escape from the daily grind and exhaustion of managing ADHD.

There's no wrong way to read; it's all about finding what works for you. Happy reading! 📚

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ADHD and Reading a Book: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Is reading books good for ADHD?

Absolutely! Reading books can offer many benefits for adults and children with ADHD. It can enhance focus, improve vocabulary, and provide a structured way to engage the brain. However, it can also pose challenges, so finding strategies that help you focus is crucial.

How does ADHD impact reading?

ADHD tends to impact reading in various ways, such as making it hard to focus for long periods, leading to easily distracted moments or trouble absorbing the content. Strategies can include taking frequent breaks or changing the book's format (like going from a physical book to an audiobook). But it varies from person to person.

Why is it so hard to read with ADHD?

The challenges of reading with ADHD largely come down to concentration and distraction. Many children and adults with ADHD struggle to maintain concentration, especially when the material doesn't pique their interest. Mental health experts suggest that the brain's dopamine levels play a role in this, affecting how well one can stick to a task like reading.

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