Does having more books at home give your children an educational “edge?”

Posted: July 6, 2010 in General Musings & Enlightened Ramblings, Home Libraries, Reading in America
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I just stumbled across this excellent article by Tom Jacobs for Miller-McCune, “Home Libraries Provide Huge Educational Advantage.

Mr. Jacobs refers to a study conducted by researchers from 27 nations and published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.

The study states that, “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.  This is a large effect, both absolutely and in comparison with other influences on education.”

Having read that I reflected on my own childhood.  I don’t remember a time when I was not surrounded by some kind of print, whether it was my father’s newspaper, comic books, or great works of literature.  I have fond memories of visiting my maternal grandparents’ house and leafing through their collection of World War II books.  I used to gaze for hours at the black and white photographs of men and women fighting, the ruins of Dresden, the submarines in the Atlantic, and the massive tank battles on the Eastern Front.  Not only did it fuel my imagination and dreams of becoming a soldier, but it solidified my love of history and reading.

I truly believe that books are the fuel that drives critical thinking and propels people to new heights in their personal quest towards enlightenment.  As the old quip goes: “God created man, Sam Colt made them equal.”  My personal take is that books are the great equalizers.  The story of Andrew Carnegie comes to mind, a man of humble beginnings, his thirst for knowledge and love of reading helped to propel him forward.  Working for Colonel James Anderson, Carnegie would take advantage of Colonel Anderson’s charity of allowing his “working boys” access to his personal library of over 400 volumes.  I think that this not only nurtured Carnegie’s cultural and intellectual development, but also laid the kindling for his future philanthropy.  Perhaps Colonel Anderson and Andrew Carnegie are the perfect examples of the “pay it forward” ideal.

The research study also concluded that “…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.”

Looking around my own home, it is not without a certain pride, that I can report that my wife and I are surrounded by hundreds of books.  I can only hope that in the future our children will take advantage of that.  If we can give them an educational “edge” by having books around, then so be it!  Now getting them to actually read those books is another matter entirely.

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