Consider two students: One born to parents with a university education who have zero books in the home. Another born to parents with an 8th-grade education level who have 500 books in the home.
Which student is likely to stay in school longer?
According to a study published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, these two students would likely stay in school for approximately the same amount of time.
Why? Because the number of books in a child’s home has as much impact on how long that student remains in school as does his or her parent’s education level – a striking finding given the known impact of parents’ education level on student educational attainment.
In a study led by Mariah Evans at the University of Nevada, Reno, researchers used the quantity of books in the home as a measure of scholarly culture, or “the way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read, and enjoyed.”
By analyzing data from 27 countries dating back to World War II, Evan’s evaluated the impact of scholarly culture on the level of education children obtained. She hypothesized that if scholarly culture provides skills and knowledge central to literacy, and therefore valuable in schools everywhere, then a large home library would be equally beneficial across the world.
A large home library, which reflects parental commitment to scholarly culture, corresponded with significant increases in the level of education achieved by children in the home.
For children from otherwise socioeconomically identical families, those with 500 books in the home stayed in school an average of 3.2 years longer than those with no books in the home.
Children of the least-educated parents get even more bang for their book, attaining a staggering 5.8 years more of education when their family had a large home library.
This work has multiple implications:
As digital books become increasingly available, schools and parents can utilize tablets and e-readers to help their students acquire the skills, knowledge, and enjoyment of reading conferred by a large home library. Several digital libraries and e-readers are now available, including the myON reader from Capstone Digital and Learning Spot Library from Carson-Dellosa Publishing.
Whether access to thousands of e-books has the same effect on student educational attainment as a large home library remains to be studied, but technology may provide an avenue for digital learning opportunities to compensate for a lack of scholarly culture in the home.
However, many questions remain and this is an area ripe for fresh research. It is necessary to understand how e-books and e-readers impact student reading comprehension and learning. Additionally, developers of e-books must understand and utilize research on reading development in order to provide the most promising experience for young readers.