The Presence of Books and Children’s Intelligence

The num­ber of books in your house­hold has more of an effect on your child’s aca­dem­ic achieve­ments than your edu­ca­tion or income, a recently pub­lished study (pdf) has found.

Sug­gest­ing that the effects seem to be far from trivi­al, the con­clu­sion indic­ates that simply the pres­ence of books in their house can make chil­dren more intel­li­gent.

Just hav­ing books around the house (the more, the bet­ter) is cor­rel­ated with how many years of school­ing a child will com­plete. The study […] found that grow­ing up in a house­hold with 500 or more books is “as great an advant­age as hav­ing uni­ver­sity-edu­cated rather than unschooled par­ents, and twice the advant­age of hav­ing a pro­fes­sion­al rather than an unskilled fath­er.” Chil­dren with as few as 25 books in the fam­ily house­hold com­pleted on aver­age two more years of school­ing than chil­dren raised in homes without any books.

[Anoth­er study] found that simply giv­ing low-income chil­dren 12 books (of their own choos­ing) on the first day of sum­mer vaca­tion “may be as effect­ive as sum­mer school” in pre­vent­ing “sum­mer slide” – the degree to which lower-income stu­dents slip behind their more afflu­ent peers aca­dem­ic­ally every year.

Upon read­ing this I had the same thought as Jonah Lehr­er: “But what to do in a world of Kindles and iPads?”

4 thoughts on “The Presence of Books and Children’s Intelligence

  1. Rob O.

    Can­’t recall in which of his books it was men­tioned, but I believe Mal­colm Glad­well also noted the pos­it­ive effect of books in a child’s house­hold.

    Espe­cially for young chil­dren, I’m still very much in favor of tra­di­tion­al, paper-based books. The more tact­ile the exper­i­ence, the bet­ter. And as a par­ent, flip­ping pages gives me time to dis­cuss what we just read and what might be about to hap­pen next. I’ll admit that i haven’t tried read­ing an e‑book to my 4 yr old, but it just does­n’t seem as prac­tic­al.

  2. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    In that case I pre­sume it’s in either Out­liers (seems a likely can­did­ate) or Blink as I’ve only read The Tip­ping Point and it isn’t in there.

    I can under­stand this pref­er­ence (I agree) and it seems like it would be a great bond­ing exer­cise, too. I assume for this exper­i­ence the altern­at­ive is pos­sibly inter­act­ive ebooks.

  3. Nina Geiger

    When you hold a phys­ic­al book in your hands, and read it out loud, you are reach­ing all of the dif­fer­ent learn­ing types in one “swell foop”!
    Aud­it­ory learners
    Tact­ile learners
    Visu­al learners
    Con­cep­tu­al learners
    Bored learners
    Intense learners
    Fid­gety learners


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