For years educator’s thought the strongest predictor of your child attaining high educational levels was having highly educated parents. In fact, a 20-year study by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, and Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics refutes the case. That is, the difference between being raised in a bookless home rather than being raised in a home with a 500 book level showed a high effect on the level of education a child will attain, regardless of parents who are barely literate (only 3 years of education) as compared to a child having parents who have a university education (15 plus years). These two factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, raised a child 3.2 years in education! Moreover, Evans found that children of lesser-educated and economically disadvantaged parents would benefit the most from having books in the home (Science Daily, 2010).
She asks, “what kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?” The results of her study indicate that getting some books into such homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed. Further she found that having as few as 20 books in the home had a significant impact on moving a child to a higher level of education. In other words, the more books you add, the greater the benefit! (Education World, 2016).
Moreover, in countries such as China, she found that having 500 or more books in the home increased children’s educational level 6.6 years. In the United States, the effect was less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that “ 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.” (Education World, 2016).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate’s degree, but not a bachelor’s degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor’s degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.
In addition, Evans was struck by the positive effect having books in the home had on children’s educational attainment beyond such factors as the education level of the parents, the country’s GDP, the father’s occupation or the political system of the country. That is, having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Interestingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was only 2 years, or less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children or 3.2 year’s growth (Education World, 2016).
Evans believes that having books in the home stimulates reading, particularly with very small children. For example, simply talking about the books as the parent reads can make a huge difference (please see “The Read Aloud Program”). Furthermore, homes in which books are used to stimulate factual questions, rather than debating them as though they were matters of opinion, make an important contribution to children’s so-called learning strategies.
Evans goes on to say: “when children observe what their parents do — reading at home is very important in a role-modeling sense. Children gain skills and culture/content from the books in the home. These skills and content even help children perform better on standardized tests. Bookish homes help children like school and see their teachers as valuable coaches. Both performing well and liking school encourage youth to persist in education, even when the going gets tough” (2016 Education World).