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I Know What You’re Reading This Summer

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The average American child will spend 405 hours this summer watching TV and internet videos: Be a great example and read. Reading is proven to make us healthier, happier and wiser. So grab a cold Corona (keeping this example to yourself, at least for now) and pick up a book!

One evening while staying at Sea World Orlando, I looked up from dinner to notice a family of four eating beside me. All four were peering at smartphones or tablets (including the children who both appeared to be under the age of six).

Now I’m certainly guilty of checking my phone while out with friends. But, fortunately, mobile phones and Wi-Fi weren’t yet mainstream when I was six years old. Dinners with my parents and four siblings—while often chaotic!—were memorable. We were present with each other, and I believe this was possible because: A) technology wasn’t tempting and B) we spent more time reading.

Today, children (and adults) are being short-changed in terms of the interpersonal opportunities that reading offers: such as learning to think independently and analytically and to converse with other human beings in real-time.

Science shows a plethora of benefits to reading. Who knew, for example, that reading novels can make you more empathetic and personable? In contrast, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that using Facebook as a vehicle to express your feelings (i.e. by clicking “Like”) makes you feel glum. Makes sense: reading is active; social media is passive.

Perhaps we wouldn’t have so many hyper-sensitive “snowflakes” on college campuses if children grew up reading books like Huckleberry Finn where young protagonists innovate and form friendships against all odds. Instead, today’s young people ingest a steady stream of Photo-shopped and politically-correct images on social media.

The summer is a great time to discover or re-discover your love for reading. Here’s some suggestions to get you started this summer:

101 Things All Young Adults Should Know by John Hawkins. A great read for Millennials. Hawkins wrote this book using his trademark sense of humor that you’re accustomed to if you read his Townhall columns. Plus, he wears his heart on his sleeve, sharing valuable life lessons he’s learned—in hopes others can learn them even earlier. Note: parents may wish to read this book before sharing with adolescents (occasional adult content is employed for constructive advice).

Confessions by Saint Augustine of Hippo. Every time I read this book, it touches and teaches me anew. In this autobiography, Augustine shares his how he succumbed to common temptations that we all face—like following the crowd and materialism—and how he then took a new path to reform his life and find objective truth.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A short and gripping classic mystery that is so well-written that it retains its relevance and holds suspense even today. Warning: it’s a page-turner!

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. If you are interested in history, technology or public policy and have only heard the mainstream media and Hollywood’s accounts of Jobs’ life, be sure to read this book. Isaacson writes objectively, showing readers Jobs’ good and bad sides alike.

At heart, you’ll learn that Jobs was a capitalist who believed that actions—his own and others’—have consequences. You’ll see how he ultimately makes amends for what he considered his biggest personal regret—and how he loves his wife and family. And you’ll be inspired by how he fearlessly tells politicians—from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama—to be honest and stop playing political games.

Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A great series to give or read with a young person. Learn about the history of American pioneers while reading engaging stories. Young people can learn from the struggles, adventures and retro fun that the Ingalls family shared together.

My parents read the Little House series to me and my siblings. Reading united our family, giving us common stories and mysteries to discuss. On our own, we each read as well. Reading expanded our horizons and vocabularies and helped us develop a healthy sense of wonder about the world.

I came to love reading so much that—when I finished my books—I would even read my father’s political and Second Amendment magazines! Eventually, I found myself interested in American politics. With the help of reading, a little girl’s heart was stirred with a fire for freedom.

I don’t know where you were last summer—but I do know what you’re reading this summer: great books!

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