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The Secret to Academic Success: Home Library

Remember our recent post about the success of bribing kids to learn? (tldr: kids bribed to read books scored the most improvement)

Here's another study linking the importance of reading books (technically, book collection - but I suppose the two typically go hand in hand) to academic success:

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.

“This is a large effect, both absolutely and in comparison with other influences on education,” adds the research team, led by University of Nevada sociologist M.D.R. Evans. “A child from a family rich in books is 19 percentage points more likely to complete university than a comparable child growing up without a home library.”

Seems that any home with a 500 book library would not need statistical correction for educational attainment of parents. The 500 books pretty much indicate a home inclined to view education positively.

I think the study is substantiating what is pretty obvious, no?
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My family was very poor growing up, but there were always a ton of books around. I don't know if that made me a better student or not. I think I'm pretty average. But when I was 8 or 9 I tried to teach my cat to read.

Results were mixed.
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Memories! We had a huge bookshelf full of kids' books that I'd just plow through as a child. It was awesome! (Huge=almost as or just as tall as a small child.)
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Actually, I think the Freakonomics guys covered this in their first book - the research found that owning books makes a difference on test scores, not reading books. It's a marker of economic priorities.
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I am sending this to my husband! Finally, proof that my shelves upon shelves of books will help our kids!

(BTW, I also bribe my kids to read--not with money, but with other enticements!)
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These posts are pretty basic. If parents like to read and learn, they generally pass that on to thier kids. If they like to play sports, same thing. Or music. Most musical people come from musical families. This is not rocket science. I disagree with the bribery part very much, I think guilt works much better, have they done a study on that yet?
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If you want your kids to read, you need to read to them, even until high school. And they need to see you reading as well. The only enticement you need is a good book!
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This reminds of Gov Blagojevich's attempt to start a program to give away books to children in Illinois, because of an earlier study that children who grow up around books do better in school.

It seems like an obvious problem of mistaking correlation with causation. It seems more likely that homes that include lots of books also include parents who like to read, and thus children grow up imitating their parents. Dropping a few books (or 500) in a household where no one gives a crap about reading is unlikely to result in any concrete gains.
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Ok, one more post. The title of the article is "Family scholarly culture and educational success".

Even more telling, footnote 2:
It is logically possible that books could be separated from such a culture - perhaps being inherited from a maiden aunt - and that they are so intrinsically attractive that children devour them voraciously in the absence of any support or encouragement from parents. But it is not likely: Moreover, analysis of many different aspects of the home environment finds that home library size has strong predictive validity as an indicator of parents' attraction to the teaching role vis a vis their children

So, there, you have it. Parents, not books, are the factor.
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We have two little kids and tons of books in our home. I'll echo everything Just wonderin' said. It's not enough to have the books. Your kids need to see that reading is important and enjoyable to the adults in the family too. Kids will value something if they see you value it too. Reading together, when you can, is key. We haven't pushed him at all, but our 5 year old son is blossoming as a reader.
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I gotta admit, I grew up with the Time Life Science and Nature libraries. They gave me a huge head start, but I didn't have to study, so as ass on as I did, I started doing poorly until I learned how to study. Key points, I guess.
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Well, at our house it got to the point that I had to rig up a barcode scanner and make up a database of all our books using Library Thing. I then had to print out Dewey Decimal labels for the books, and we re-shelved them all. Over 2k books that could be easily cataloged, and a bunch of duplicate volumes from when we couldn't locate a book at some time, and bought a replacement.

I agree with some of the other contributors that a pile of books is probably an indicator of family priorities, which are picked up by the children.
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"Seems that any home with a 500 book library would not need statistical correction for educational attainment of parents. The 500 books pretty much indicate a home inclined to view education positively."

That is exactly why these homes DO need statistical correction for parental educational attainment
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I remember one assignment where we were to count all the books in our houses and the teacher was not happy with my result. I think they were looking for us all to say zero-three books or something and my parents had like 700. Grew up in a factory town, both parents high school drop-outs with GEDs. My mom has a new book to read almost every week but my dad rarely reads. We weren't well-off at all. I did well in school and knew a lot of stuff before they lectured us in school. All those books just sitting around, I'd grab them at random. I could actually read before I even started school.

And as I have a child now I'm totally taking this as an excuse to buy whatever books I want.
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