It's equal to a college education for your kids.
If you have ever fretted about the book clutter in your home, stop right now. You are doing any kids in your household a tremendous favor by filling the house with books. Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) have found that growing up in a home filled with books is worth even more than a college education. Astonishingly, kids who grow up surrounded by books but only complete nine years of schooling have comparable literacy levels to adults who finish college.
Not only that, but all 160,000 adults in the ANU study demonstrated literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology (ICT) skills that increased proportionately to the number of books that could be found in their homes as kids.The researchers asked participants to estimate how many books were in their home at age 16, selecting from a range that went from "10 or less" to "more than 500." The participants were then tested on their proficiency in three categories: literacy, using math in everyday life, and using digital technology to communicate with others and gather/analyze information.
The magic number is 80. If a home has at least that number of books, literacy levels will be boosted above average. The increase in competency continues up to 350 books in a home, at which point the benefits level off. This bodes well for American families, where the average number of books is 117. It's still significantly less than Scandinavian homes, where the average is nearly twice that, but much more than Turkey, where the average number of books per household is only 27.
Why does exposure to books benefit children so greatly? Robby Berman, writing for Big Think, says there are two factors at play. First, books promote a pro-knowledge and pro-learning environment. They help to develop "social practices that foster long term cognitive competencies." Second, books teach new skills and concepts to young readers and establish learning habits that last. Berman quotes the study authors:
"These competencies facilitate educational and occupational attainment, but they also lay a foundation for life-long routine activities that enhance literacy and numeracy."
Consider the cost of college tuition, or even after-school tutoring, and it's not hard to see that stocking a great, diverse home library is a very smart way to boost your child's education over the long-term. If it scores them a scholarship or two, you'll be light-years ahead; but even if not, you'll rest assured that, no matter what path of education they take, you've set them up for success as best you could.