Want Smart Kids? It’s In the Books

Saturday, 22 May 2010, 9:26 | Category : education
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Access to books has a direct impact on a childs education.

One thing my friends can tell you is that I horde books. Entire walls are covered in them. My floors (or ceilings, depending on where you stand) dent from them. They are on shelves (that are designed to hold half as many), stacked in piles and spilling over in corners and on the floor.

I have everything from worn and likely long-outdated university texts (even my older brother’s), to Sir Seuss’ finest works, to review editions lugged home from work. I am a firm believer that the return-on-investment with books is measured in perspectives gained, not dollars paid.

But simply being surrounded by them changes the way you think about them. If they are around, you’re more likely to pick one up – simple as that.

Well, turns out that’s a good thing. Because my propensity for said book-hording will have a positive effect on my child’s education, say researchers. This too is a good thing, because there is a well-established link between the level of education obtained and the level of income a person earns…and I argue, quality of life too.

A 20-year study, lead by Mariah Evans, associate professor of sociology and resource economics at the University of Nevada, found that parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain.

For years, educators have thought that the strongest predictor of your education was your mum’s or dad’s; the more educated they were, the more educated you’re likely to be too. Well, strikingly, this massive study found that being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain, as your parents’ education.

Dear Child of Mine, I got you covered.

Turns out, both factors – an extensive library or having university-educated parents – can propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

This trend translated abroad too (though the impact was greater in countries such as China). Also interestingly, the study found children of lesser-educated parents benefit most from having books at home.

So what does this mean? Our public libraries need to be well-stocked and accessible, with flexible hours of operation. Oh, and friendly, knowledgeable staff too.

Here are some additional points the study found:

Even having a few books can go a long way. The more books you add, the greater the benefit.

Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level.

Having books in the home impacted the level of education a child attained more than whether the child was reared in China or in the United States.

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