Joetopia

Kids need to put down the screen and pick up a book

jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Here we are, back home and deep in the midst of the summer of our electoral discontent, the fabulous two-week family road trip diminishing in the rear-view mirror, and Mom is again hollering at the 13-year-old to get off the screen already!

The 52-inch screen, the 9-inch screen, the 4-inch screen ... whatever.

Just do something else, anything else.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why the heck the soon-to-be high school junior has no summer reading list for her AP English class.

I distinctly remember getting loaded up with books on the way out the schoolhouse door my sophomore year, wondering just how much Russian literature a teacher could dump on a teenager before it bordered on abuse.

So it goes in the dog days of early July, when the adults are back at work and the kids are trying to see how many times they can watch “Finding Dory” in one week.

What was that I was saying about screens? Get off the 52-foot ones in theaters also.

To her credit, the girl teenager has identified a few lofty goals for her time off.

She has decided she is going to learn not one, but two foreign languages, neither of which is the actual foreign language she’s studying in school. She is doing this by carrying on conversations with her iPhone.

We’ve been talking about taking a trip to Europe for years. Perhaps by barnstorming French and Italian by app, she hopes to hasten that process?

Mrs. Joetopia said I should just let her be, as this is her time off from studying all hours of the day and night, but no way is that stopping me from filling in where next year’s English teacher prematurely left off.

So that’s how I found myself throwing yellowed paperback copies of classic novels her way the other night.

Here are four, I told her: Hemingway, Salinger, Golding, Angelou. Pick one.

Personally, I prefer Holden Caulfield’s tale in that lot, but she chose “Lord of the Flies,” and if you want some breezy summer reading, why not a story about anarchist castaway kids on a deserted island skewering pigs and trying to kill each other?

For his part, Mr. Big Eighth-Grader is most of the way through a book about Ed and Lorraine Warren, subject of “The Conjuring” movies. But that isn’t the best nighttime story because he doesn’t like reading about inhuman spirit possession right before going to bed.

Speaking of spirits, this summer we’ve also embarked on a family quest to get some religion, although the motives behind this effort vary by individual.

Mom thinks the kids could use some more godly appreciation, while I’m mostly interested in finding out which local congregations speak in tongues.

I also told her, if we’re going to do this, then we gotta go all in. That means hitting up the Mormon church and the mosque, too.

So far, we’ve visited the Lutherans and the Unitarians, which were both pleasant and welcoming. We also visited a windowless nondenominational church whose pastor spent the entire service studying a short passage of the Bible with no break for communion.

I was raised Catholic, so I always appreciated a chance to get up and walk around during the service.

So I doubt we’ll be returning to the Bible church.

When I told the kids to crack a book, that wasn’t what I had in mind.

Ah, summer!

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