A study from a few years ago has concluded that there is a strong the correlation is between a child’s academic achievement and the number of books his or her parents own. In fact, the study showed that the difference between being raised in a book less 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 (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (16+ years of education). The study was conducted over 20 years, in 27 countries, and surveyed more than 70,000 people. Researchers found that children who grew up in a home with more than 500 books spent 3 years longer in school than children whose parents had only a few or no books. Also, a child whose parents have lots of books is nearly 20-percent more likely to finish college than a child whose parents only have a few or no books. Having books in the home is twice as important as the parental education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. The number of books in the home was also more important than the home country’s GDP or the political system of the home country.
Note that the study found a correlation to the number of books in a home and the amount of education attained – NOT whether the books were actually read by the children or parents. What to make of this? The 2005 bestseller Freakanomics may shed some light on this. In Freakanomics the authors cited research that found that having a lot of books in the home was highly correlated to higher test scores but, surprisingly, how often a child is read to in their early years by their parents had a very low correlation to higher test scores. So, according to the data relating to what correlates to higher test scores:
Matters: The child has many books in his home.
Doesn’t: The child’s parents read to him every day.
What is the explanation for this? The authors conjectured: “Most parents who buy a lot of children’s books tend to be smart and well educated to begin with. (And they pass on their smarts and work ethic to their kids.) Or perhaps they care a great deal about education, and about their children in general. (Which means they create an environment that encourages and rewards learning.) Such parents may believe that every children’s book is a talisman that leads to unfettered intelligence. But they are probably wrong. A book is in fact less a cause of intelligence than an indicator.”