Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.
For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to 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 having parents who are barely literate…compared to having parents who have a university education… Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.
Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada’s rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.
“What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?” she asked. “The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed.”
Evans said, “Even a little bit goes a long way,” in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit…
The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children’s educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country’s GDP, the father’s occupation or the political system of the country.
Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children.
I presume the benefit was from having access to the books. It certainly was an advantage for me and my sister.
Though both of us were taught to read before entering kindergarten, though both took those long Saturday roundtrip walks to the Carnegie Library in our community – our parents had belonged to a couple of book clubs for all their lives together. It took me years – enjoyable years I might add – to catch up to both of them reading through our home library.