I received an email today that had the subject line: Does Reading Matter?

And I got all hot and bothered about it because yes, of course reading matters. It matters a lot. Trust me, I haz opinions on this subject.

Turns out, the email’s author has opinions on the matter too, and sent me a lovely article outlining them. It’s well worth your time, with some fresh reading recommendations in there, to keep you occupied while I gather my own feverishly opinionated post together.

(First, feast your eyes on this photo of Cass reading back in 2011, when she was 7. Be still my beating heart; where’d my little girl go?)


cass reading


Does Reading Matter?

By Chantal Jauvin


With April upon us, thousands of families are starting to negotiate what they will do for their summer vacations. The stakes are high: Wi-Fi or not? Together or separately? Away camps or day camps? Parents, children, couples, relatives and friends, vying to create their perfect version of a summer holiday.

The choices have multiplied to such an extent that the option of simply dropping by the local library to pick up a stack of books for the cottage, the park or the backyard seems a distant memory. People bemoan their lack of time to read. The reasons are endless: work, chauffeuring the kids, barely enough time for yoga, tax season, too much time looking at the computer screen, and the new season of House of Cards. In other words, life gets in the way of reading.

So, why do we shortchange our reading time? Does reading still matter?

Most people would agree that being able to read matters. Yet as many as 32 million adults in the U.S. cannot, according to the U.S. Department of Education figures from December 2015. But there is an even more alarming statistic: 19% of high school students graduate without being able to read. These statistics raise some alarming questions: Do we have enough jobs to employ so many illiterate people? Will those jobs pay sufficiently to keep them out of poverty?

If we stretch our vision to look at the state of global literacy, the same research found that 775 million people around the world cannot read. Because some cultures still place less value on girl’s formal education while their brothers are encouraged to attend school, females account for 66% of that number. Whether at home or abroad, the ramifications of illiteracy are obvious: poverty, social exclusion and limited access to medical care.

The statistics can be argued with, reframed or countered. The simple fact remains: illiteracy severely limits quality of life both in economic terms and in the possibilities of enjoyment. Parents, advocates, government officials, students may not agree on how to fix the problem, but everyone agrees that the ability to read beyond a basic level is crucial.

Americans spend 2 hours and 46 minutes out of each day watching television. Young adults between the ages of 15 and 19 spend only 4.2 minutes per day reading during weekends and holidays (excluding homework-related reading). Reading habits increase only marginally later in life. Americans ages 45 to 54 engage in leisure reading only 26.4 minutes a day, (American Time Use Survey, 2013).

If we agree about the importance of reading, why do spend so little time enjoying it? The reasons vary by person, but perhaps the root cause has more to do with our cost-benefit analysis of the use of our time. A regular workout regime, say 3 times a week, 45 minutes each session, provides a tangible result. Reading’s benefits are less obvious.

Huffington Post has taken a look at the science behind reading and offers us concrete reasons to read more often. “6 Science-Backed Reasons to Go Read a Book Right Now” include:

  1. Stress reduction: It takes only 6 minutes of reading to begin lowering your stress level. 
  2. Longer-lasting memory function: People who start to read early and continue to do so throughout their lives experience slower memory decline.
  3. Better sleep: Sleep experts recommend reading before bed to improve the quality of sleep.

Science aside, there are some other compelling reasons to read more often.


1. To learn from history.

Reading historical fiction provides insights into our past. Reading about Queen Isabella’s rule in Spain through the eyes of author C.W. Gortner in The Queen’s Vow provides a compelling way to understand the events and personalities who ruled this country in this period.


2. To prepare for action.

In this age of instant gratification, books are our 24-hour-a-day teachers. They are available to help us plan a trip, learn a new skill or face a personal challenge. They provide privacy to test ourselves by taking self-help quizzes or improving the way we face life. Consider Amy Cuddy’s new book Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges.


3. To boost imagination and creativity.

A book can provide a different perspective on life. Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke challenges the reader to see the world through the lens and life of a talented photographer. People who suffer from isolation often find solace when they encounter a character who shares their values and experiences. This affirmation validates their views and often spurs their creativity.


4. To increase our empathy.

Our world faces constant challenges requiring us to empathize with people facing situations we ourselves have not encountered. That Bird Has My Wings by Jarvis Jay Masters depicts the journey of a man on death row. Books bridge the gap between situations unknown to us and universal themes of our human condition: struggles with faith, self-forgiveness and judgment of others.


5. To be a responsible citizen of the world.

Margaret Atwood explains this best: “Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.”

It’s always the right time to do something good for your health, your mind, your soul. But summer is an especially opportune occasion, which provides us more open space in our lives. Fill that space with something that matters; have a summer fling with reading, and see where it goes.


Chantal Jauvin is an international attorney who has combined her passion for experiencing other cultures with her pursuit of a global legal career. She has lived in Japan, Mexico, Cambodia, Russia, Austria, taking shorter assignments in Vietnam while pursuing her MBA studies in the UK. She has negotiated in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Sao Paulo often enough to almost call these cities home. Igniting her lifelong enthusiasm for language and other societies, she has turned her attention to writing in her quest to understand how our souls are touched by the blended world in which we live. Jauvin currently resides with her husband in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Her new book The Boy with a Bamboo Heart tells the story of a street orphan who created a children’s charity called FORDEC. The book can be purchased on Amazon and ChantalJauvin.com

Connect with Chantal Jauvin on LinkedIn, Facebook , and on her website, http://chantaljauvin.com/. For more information on FORDEC, please visit http://fordecusa.org/.

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Not too terribly long ago I participated in the Timex ONE relay and in spite of the fact that I am honestly just a terrible runner, it felt pretty awesome to be part of such a huge endeavor. It’s simply amazing: the sheer number of people involved, the heart of the participants and the ongoing support of the running community.

Now here’s your chance to take part: in not just a national relay, but a historic running relay!

The United Relay of America is making running history as the world’s first triple-route coast-to-coast nonstop running relay. Runners who want to make a difference will set off from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and meet in New York City, carrying three batons nearly 12,000 miles in the three unbroken chains. In the process, awareness and an estimated $1.5 million will be raised for several deserving charities, including children’s hospitals across the nation.

Between those three unbroken chains, an estimated 9,000 runners will run over 1,200 stages in 39 days (setting off from Seattle on April 27th, San Francisco on May 4th and LA on May 8th). They’ll then move east, with the last runners uniting at Prospect Park, New York City on June 4th. That’s about 12,000 miles across 33 states! You can follow the runners’ progress on a live map or by following along on social media.

To participate, register to run a stage on the United Relay of America website (individual stage is $50, group stages are $25. One group stage involved the “Rocky steps” at the Philly art museum, on June 2nd). You’ll then be invited to choose a charity and a fundraising target. Fundraising is not compulsory; if you don’t hit your target you will not be charged the difference.

And of course, if you are Not A Runner you can opt to sponsor a runner or simply donate to the cause. 100% of United Relay of America Fund proceeds go directly to the charities.

unitedrelaycharitiesscreenshot-unitedrelay.org 2016-04-09 15-56-39 screenshot-unitedrelay.org 2016-04-09 15-57-13

Registered runners and supporters receive an exclusive 20% discount on safe, bone conduction headphones from AfterShokz. Since this relay takes place on roadside courses, during all hours and conditions, runners won’t be allowed to use traditional headphones and earbuds that block out traffic and warnings. By contrast, AfterShokz bone conduction headphones ensures runners can remain aware of surroundings while they run. Plus, 5% of every purchase made will be donated to the United Relay of America Fund through June 2016.



AND, when you sign up to a run a stage you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to meet Alicia Keyes, during a two-night stay in NYC with flights included! The winner and a friend will also receive a free pair of AfterShokz headphones and a goodie bag, including an exclusive United Relay t-shirt signed by Alicia Keys.

You can increase your chances of winning (each point represents a separate entry into the prize draw):

  • 5 points for signing up to an empty stage
  • 4 points for signing up to a Standard Stage
  • 3 points for every $100 you raise
  • 2 points for recruiting a friend to run
  • 1 point for signing up to a Group Stage

You can see a running total of your points within your United Relay Dashboard.

I have to admit, I’ve been feeling some runner envy this month; so many people have been posting pictures as they kick off their racing season. This is a great opportunity to set a date to begin training for, while raising funds for a cause you care about— did I mention 100% of United Relay of America Fund proceeds go directly to the charities?

Register today!



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My favorite gifts for young kids and baby showers (and really most other gift giving occasions, if I’m being honest) are books. The classics, to be sure, but I also try to rustle up some new titles that I think the recipient is unlikely to receive from any other quarter.

My First Science Textbooks are chemistry storybooks for the very young, written by a chemistry teacher with his two-year-old daughter in mind.

I love love love this.

My First Chemistry Textbooks


Book I: Protons and Neutrons
Book II: Electrons
Book III: The Atom

My First Chemistry Textbooks are hardcover children’s books, each with 32 or more full color paper pages. Our goal is to add a few additional workbook pages at the end of the books so adults and kids can play, interact and discuss the content covered throughout the books.

This is at the Kickstarter stage at the moment, but it fully funded within 8 hours! The initial fundraising goal was $4500 and they’re close to $100,000 now. Which is AMAZING.

For $35, you can reserve one copy each of the three books in the series plus access to the E-book versions. For $36 you get them in board book form.

For $65, you get one each in hardback form and one each in board book form. Think of it as the “grow with me” edition.

For $100, you get FOUR board book copies of each title plus access to the E-book versions, so you can donate to your classroom or library AND give away copies at your next baby shower or little kid birthday.

There are other donation levels available, those are just my favorites.

Check it out and reserve your copies now! Estimated delivery is October 2016.




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Today’s National Walking Day. It’s also April Fool’s Day, which is a holiday that I think should be taken out to the barn and shot, but never mind about that. Here in southeastern PA today is gloriously sunny and in the low 70s; temps are forecasted to retreat into the 40s this weekend with a possibility of snow (SNOW!). There’s never been a better day for a nice, brisk walk.

Here, I present unto you the health benefits of walking and most pressing reasons to put on some pants and get outside:

benefits of walking


Walking gets your blood flowing.

A recent Ball State study found that Americans generally spend 64% of waking hours in a sedentary position. Now, granted, Americans also don’t get enough sleep, so there’s not a lot of not-waking hours, but it’s still a sobering statistic. Even if you’re going to the gym after work every day for an hour of exercise, that isn’t enough to counteract the adverse effects of sitting all day long. While in a seated position, your lungs aren’t expanding fully, your circulation is compromised (it’s even worse if you have bad posture) and therefore the amount of oxygen being moved throughout your body is lessened. This means physical weakening and mental fuzziness.

Whenever you get the opportunity throughout the day, you should get up and walk around, stretch, do something to get that blood flowing to rejuvenate your mind and body.


You’ll live longer.

Physical activity lengthens our telomeres, the caps at the ends of chromosomes that are tied to aging and stress. On the flip side, a sedentary lifestyle is connected to increased mortality rates, from reasons spanning from colon and breast cancer (one study indicated those who were inactive were 40% more likely to die from their cancers) to insulin resistance to stroke and heart attack.


You’ll feel better.

Sedentary people are more likely to be depressed, although it’s hard to say whether being inactive leads to depression or if those who are depressed are less inclined to be active. However, there’s a good body of evidence showing that the endorphins produced from exercise helps to lift spirits, and that being out in nature lowers blood levels in the parts of the brain associated with rumination. In other words, going outside for a walk forces you out of your own head so that you’re not dwelling on the negative; in fact it can instead bring on a meditative state with all its positive effects.


You’ll be more creative.

Walking exposes us to new stimuli and allows our minds to wander: these unfettered thought and associations are the perfect prescription for creativity. Meanwhile, the exercise distracts the prefrontal cortex (right brain thinking) letting the left side of the brain take over a bit, plus it increases that blood flow to the brain, enlarging the hippocampus (which moves information from short-term to long-term memory). One Stanford study found that walking increased creative output by 60%!


You’ll probably lose weight over time.

For those who are currently sedentary or aren’t already committed to a weight loss regime, walking is a great place to start. It’s easy on the joints. It doesn’t involve any special equipment, upfront costs or new skills. It’s low pressure and not as intimidating as walking into a weight room or Zumba class. And for most people, it’s sustainable because it’s enjoyable: a chance to get out into the open air, bask in the sunshine, catch up with a friend.

If just walking doesn’t feel like a significant enough form of exercise to make a difference, consider this: for those with obesity who are trying to lose weight, the greatest health benefits come from losing just 5 percent of their body weight: according to a new study, that relatively small weight loss notably lowered risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also improved metabolic function in liver, fat and muscle tissue.

To get the most weight loss benefits from walking, you’ll want to keep the pace brisk and heart rate elevated. Also, try walking immediately after meals— it helps to slow digestion and improve your circadian rhythyms (messed up circadian rhythms can make it more difficult for your body to let go of fat). And yes, you will need to look at your calorie intake. All the walking in the world can’t overrule basic math.


It’s just nice.

It IS.

I know it’s so much easier to stay where you are. But going for a walk is such a simple pleasure. Why deprive yourself of that, especially when it’s so good for you?



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