Buy lots of books.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, this advice might seem rather obvious, but what is not as obvious is the strong correlation between book ownership and academic achievement. It turns out that parental ownership of books is “even more important than whether the parents went to college or hold white-collar jobs.”
This study of which The Chronicle reports, published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, was conducted over 20 years in 27 countries. Researchers found that kids who grew up in homes with more than 500 books were more likely to attend college and spend more time in formal education. In fact, the presence of books is a better indicator of kids getting college degrees than whether or not their parents went to college.
Now, it is important to stress that correlation does not necessarily indicate causation. Just because the presence of books is correlated to a child’s academic achievement does not mean that the books themselves are responsible. A more likely scenario is that the families who have lots of books are communicating that they value reading and learning. When parents have lots of books, read lots of books and talk about those books, their children will be exposed to the thoughts and the values that those actions communicate. In other words, since children learn most by the behaviors and attitudes parents model for them, if we value books in a way that they can readily observe then they be more likely to catch those same values.
The study says it this way:
Thus it seems that scholarly culture, and the taste for books that it brings, flows from generation to generation largely of its own accord, little affected by education, occupational status, or other aspects of class … Parents give their infants toy books to play with in the bath; read stories to little children at bed-time; give books as presents to older children; talk, explain, imagine, fantasize, and play with words unceasingly. Their children get a taste for all this, learn the words, master the skills, buy the books. And that pays off handsomely in schools.
If your children don’t see you valuing books, they won’t learn that books are valuable. If your children don’t see you reading, they’ll assume that reading is not important. Buying lots of books – and taking the time to read them – is an incredibly important way to invest in your child’s education. The bottom line …. books matter.
Part one of a four part series on reading.
Part 1 – Books and Academic Achievement
Part 2 – Why We Need to Read Together: The Magic of Reading Aloud
Part 3 – Facebook: The New Reader’s Digest
Part 4 – Fiction and Training the Imagination