Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Books

We didn't have a lot of books in the house when I was growing up, but Dad read to us and we could see that he enjoyed reading to himself. We did have a combined college/village library to which I was taken from an early age. When I was in fourth grade we moved across the street from it. I read my way through the children's books, then adult fiction, and then the history section. I bought books whenever I could afford them — on trips to Madison, where I spent hours in Paul's second hand bookstore, and at auctions around town. So this study makes a lot of sense to me. The ability to read is essential to any education — the ability to read well is the result of practice — and the availability of books encourages that practice.
.... After examining statistics from 27 nations, a group of researchers found the presence of book-lined shelves in the home — and the intellectual environment those volumes reflect — gives children an enormous advantage in school.

“Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics,” reports the study, recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books. ....

In most nations, survey participants (a total of more than 73,000 people) were asked to estimate the number of books in their parents’ home when they were 14 years old. The scholars compared that figure with other factors influencing educational achievement, including the education levels of one’s parents.

“Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to a home library helps the children get a little farther in school,” they report. “But the gains are not equally great across the entire range. Having books in the home has a greater impact on children from the least-educated families. It is at the bottom, where books are rare, that each additional book matters most.”

Evans and her colleagues contend the number of books at home is an excellent reflection of a family’s “scholarly culture,” which they describe as a “way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read and enjoyed.” An early immersion in such a culture “provides skills and competencies that are useful in school,” and/or engenders “a preference for and enjoyment of books and reading that makes schooling congenial, or enjoyable,” they conclude. .... [more]
Thanks to Joe Carter for the reference.

Home Libraries Provide Huge Educational Advantage