Got Books?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStatistically, a home with books equals more successful children. Trips to your public library are certainly an excellent way to introduce children to books. However, research shows that having a personal library is more beneficial than visits to the public library.

Mariah Evans from the University of Nevada (2010), researched how the scholarly culture of a family influenced the future socioeconomic success of the child. (Scholarly culture is the way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read, and enjoyed.)

The results were astounding and conclusive across 27 nations. “Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class.”

No matter what status the parents have, if there are books in the home, readily available for young minds, the child’s education will be enhanced and a greater advantage to future economic success. An interesting note of research is that the children who benefited most from having books in the home were the children who came from low income families with parents who had minimal education; not the children who were raised by parents with university education and upper level income.

Books just sitting on a bookshelf collecting dust is not what is going to make the difference in a child’s life. The research suggests that, “Scholarly culture provides skills and competencies that are useful in school, or that it reflects a preference for and enjoyment of books and reading that makes schooling congenial, or enjoyable.” Success will only be achieved by taking one of those books off the shelf, dusting it off and reading it with the child, talking about the book, and then moving onto the next book on the shelf. Furthermore, Evans said, “Even a little bit goes a long way.” As few as 20 books will make a difference in the life of a child and the more books you add, the greater the benefit. “You get a lot of bang for your book” (

What about the underprivileged children whose family’s cannot afford to buy books to establish a scholarly culture? There are charities that distribute books to the less fortunate; such as Books for Africa, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes books to children in Africa. What about the millions of Americans who cannot afford to have books in their homes? An article in the New York Times focuses on the nonprofit organization First Book that puts books in the hands of underprivileged children throughout the United States and Canada.

Next time you go through the books on your shelf keep two things in mind. Would the book benefit your children’s scholarly culture? Is there a local charity you can donate the book to and in turn help build another family’s scholarly culture?

While researching for this article I considered my own family’s scholarly culture. I have boxes upon boxes of books in my garage waiting to be donated because I didn’t like the amount of space the books were taking up and that meant I needed to buy another bookshelf and where was I going to put the bookshelf? I think it is time to go through those books again and ask the two questions I suggested previously. I’m sure there is room in my home and my life for a few of those books and the others I will find a home that needs a little boost in their scholarly culture. What are you doing to enhance your family’s scholarly culture?

By: Suzanna Tolman


Evans, M.D.R., Kelly, J., Sikora, J., Treiman, D.J. (2010). Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success: Books and Schooling in 27 Nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Science Direct.