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/.

read more


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!



read more


I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

― Neil Gaiman


God, I love Neil Gaiman.

He breaks my heart, in a beautiful way. He makes me want to write, to create, to populate new worlds with starlight and yearning and well dressed woodland creatures and dusty whispers from worlds gone by. At the same time, every time I read anything of his, I am so deeply aware that nothing I’d put to paper would ever come close to touching how gorgeous his darkness is that I give up before I’ve begun.

That said, these are things that Neil has wished for us, his readers, over the years. Two weeks into the new year, I’m somehow more ready to let them land.

Write them on your mirror, hang them on your heart… do what you need to remind yourself to make all the mistakes, to put something out there into the world that only you could ever contribute.

Neil Gaiman New Year quotes


May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.



…I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.



It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.

So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them.

And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.

So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.



Be kind to yourself in the year ahead.

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them.

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.


read more

I don’t have cable, so I was “watching” the recent Video Music Awards through commentary on Twitter and Facebook and catching up on the important bits as clips were posted to various websites. It’s funny, I don’t feel I missed much, I was just operating on a ten minute delay or so.

Afterwards, of course, the overwhelming majority of sentiment goes like this:

1. OMG, all these performers are attention whores and everything they said/did/wore was for the attention, how pathetic

2. FFS, <insert name of media outlet here>, I remember when you used to report actual news, why does anyone care about <insert name of celebrity here>?

Example: I’m so sick of that Miley Cyrus. Stop giving her attention. She’s just trying to be the next Madonna.

Madonna? Madonna who? Oh, you mean the woman who was instrumental for pushing the artistic envelope when it came to music video; who is, if not the Queen at least a duchess of the Girl Power movement; who released over a dozen albums over three decades; who sold over 300 million records (making her the best selling female musical artist of all time); who went on to star in films, write books and found her own entertainment company? Who, by the by, was criticized every damn step of the way? That Madonna? Why the hell would anyone want to try to be her?

Remember Like a Virgin at the VMAs? The original wardrobe malfunction?

I think it’s strange that we lambast the famous for craving attention, as it is the motivation that drives the creative instinct and the hustle to get it seen, and the “media” (by which I mean anyone who seeks to reach an audience beyond their friends and family) for distributing content that generates that attention.

This is what we call entertainment. It’s not a new concept.

Performers stand before us on whatever stage they choose, and we choose to pay attention to it. And far more often than not, we criticize not only their talent and their creations, but their faces, their bodies, their casual remarks, their vacation choices, their wardrobes, their partners and their children.

It’s amazing that anyone chooses to create and perform at all, let alone in a way that is mass distributed, that makes them “famous.” But for those with the music, the words, the magic within them, the idea of not sharing is to deny your spirit.

Let’s be real: to amass any sort of fame for what you’ve produced, there needs to be a healthy amount of ego. There is no such thing as a truly humble celebrity. Thankful, grateful, yes. But to keep creating things of note, you can’t act like your talent was a happy coincidence, a tangential gift. You have to own your talent. You have to think: yes, I made this, and it is good, and I can do it again.

You have to believe that what you’re putting out there is something the world absolutely wants and needs to see. You have to take energy from the other parts of your life and dedicate it to the center of your universe, your craft. And then you have to take care of the thousand and one mundane details that don’t actually directly pertain to your craft, the first and most important being promote, promote, promote.

1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

If your ego isn’t quite up to snuff, then the act of creation is terrifying and the act of promotion is paralyzing. What was so clever, concise, innovative, important while being constructed in your mind becomes insipid and trivial once you imagine how the world will belittle and criticize.

And they will. No matter how brilliant and talented you are. No matter if they are strangers, your friends or your bedmates. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen anyway, whether you’re just doing normal day to day things or giving birth to things of joy and consequence. It’s just a matter of degree.

Your job isn’t to cater to the masses. Your job is to put the thing into the world that only you can. Not everybody is going to like it and that’s fine.

So you may as well bask in how brilliant and talented you are while you build big, important things, and let them chatter as they must. 

There’s nothing wrong with a little ego, and a little fear. It’s far better than the alternative: to do nothing ever worth talking about.

Feel the fear— and then go ahead. Dance like everyone is watching.

facing fear

Faced with fear, we all recoil. The question is:

what do we do next?

-Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write (affiliate link)


FWIW, I don’t care much for Miley Cyrus either. I’m old, I guess.

Refreshingly, I honestly don’t think she cares what I care.


read more

something silly in the world Shel Silverstein

I’ve always thought it was obnoxious when people said they were trying to “find themselves.”

I think part of that is because when I was younger, I had a pretty good handle of who my self was. I spent a lot of time in my own head. I read a lot. I put a lot of silly in the world, just because. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who let me talk a lot, who let me ramble on until my words became ideas and projects and passions.

Then I had kids, and I worked all the time, and I grew away from people, and I stopped doing the things that helped me to continually shape who I was. When I did get to spend time with people, even I was bored with what I had to say.

I stopped blogging because I didn’t feel like I had anything worth saying, let alone worth anyone else reading.

I didn’t do anything anymore. I didn’t think or write or create things. If I had spare time, I slept. Or I worried about the stuff I should be doing, or I watched TV to block out worrying about the things I should be doing. Sometimes I mutitasked and dreamt about the things I should be doing.

That’s no way to live. It’s not living at all, really.

Which is to say, I’m currently one of those insufferable people trying to find themselves.

My first step has been to do a lot of reading. I’ve gone back to reread the books that I’ve always considered to be the building blocks of who I am. I’m surfing Flipboard to find new things that spark something in me. I’m applying for jobs and opportunities that excite me. And I’m catching up on the bloggers who I used to read faithfully— binging on the several years of material that I’ve missed out on.

One of those bloggers is Seth Godin, and this passage (taken from this post) made my hair stand on end.

There’s a lot to admire about the common-sense advice, “If you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say anything.”

On the other hand, one reason we often find ourselves with nothing much to say is that we’ve already decided that it’s safer and easier to say nothing.

If you’ve fallen into that trap, then committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude and your trajectory.

A daily blog is one way to achieve this. Not spouting an opinion or retweeting the click of the day. Instead, outlining what you believe and explaining why.

Commit to articulating your point of view on one relevant issue, one news story, one personnel issue. Every day. Online or off, doesn’t matter. Share your taste and your perspective with someone who needs to hear it.

Speak up. Not just tomorrow, but every day.

A worthwhile habit.

Annoyingly, it immediately earwormed that song Say Something by A Great Big World for me. And now, I’m sure, for you. You’re welcome.

Say something, I’m giving up on you—

I’m not giving up on me. I hope you haven’t yet.

I’ve got something to say, and I am saying it because I need it, and that is poetry. (Apologies to John Cage for morphing his quote, which I featured in the first blog post I ever wrote.)

I’m committing to articulating every day. My point of view. Refinding my voice. Getting silly. Getting noisy.

Say something.




Have something you’d like me to talk about? Hit me in the comments.


read more