What a Sizeable Library Can Do
As a student of sociology, I find research very engaging. I remember while doing my bachelor degree and completing my course on classes in society, we had come across a study that evaluated class based on the existence of a library in the home. Apparently, homes with libraries were correlated with children who grew up to be a part of the higher class in society. The reasoning was this: if a home had a library, then you would most likely find the parents to be educated and already belonging to a higher class in society which is thereby inherited by the children who go on to live within the same segment of society or rise even higher.
Research done by a team lead by senior sociology lecturer Joanne Sikora of Australian National University reveals a different twist on this. Her research was published in social science research. She evaluated, alongside her team, individuals between the ages of 25 and 65 between the years 2011 and 2015. They asked 160 000 individuals to recall how big their home library was at age 16 and then resumed to ask them questions about their adult life. They did so across 31 countries. They discovered the average amount of books differed based on the country. For example, In Norway, the average count of books in a household was 212, while in Turkey, it was 27. They also discovered that the more books were had at home, the higher levels of literacy did the members show up until 350 books. Anything exceeding 350 books had steady levels of literacy.
One would think literacy levels are the only thing to benefit from reading as a child but the study had good news in this aspect. It showed that growing up in a household filled with books not only was a major boost to literacy levels but it also made up for a lack of education. Teenagers who left school were compared with university students. Those school leavers who had a sizeable library at home growing up showed skills equivalent to the skills of university students who didn’t read. The magic number was 80 books. This is when benefits can be seen in the children growing up in such households.
In addition to this, cognitive competencies were observed in these adults who grew up with books more so than any competencies attained through parental education or own educational/occupational attainment. This is pointing to the fact that children surrounded by books can reap rewards during later stages of life.
Some other benefits were the ability to effectively participate in society, the ability to achieve personal goals, deeper comprehension of mathematical concepts, deeper understanding of technology especially as a communication tool. Reading books as child can expand our horizon and imagination as well as vocabulary and give us incentive to communicate through the discussion of ideas.
Sometimes children will independently show interest in books as a result of outside influences, however, here are 5 tips to kick start your library culture at home and transform your family discussions and routine by incorporating books in the home.
- Just buy books. My good friend Cindy was a having a hard time getting her children to eat more fruit and vegetables. So she asked her older brother for advice seeing as he had no trouble in this department. He said: “ Just buy the fruit and put them in places around the house, the kids will eat it”. Likewise, if you want your children to read, just buy books and place them at home and surely enough they will pick them up. You can start with your favorite books as a child. This will give you leeway to discuss the books with your children and potentially reminisce on your childhood memories with them. You can even go shopping with your kids for books. Let them build a taste for books and book shopping.
- Get books that inspire you as well and which excite you whether it is fiction or non-fiction. Children see, children do. If they see the adult reading they will pick up the habit. Research has already established that picking up a book can improve brain function, reduce stress and increase empathy. You’d be doing a service all around. Studies have also shown that having a library filled with books you have not read yet only increases excitement to read, so don’t let people guilt trip you on the fact that you keep buying books you don’t read. Diversify your library. Be adventurous and learn something new through a book.
- Poorer households have been shown to read less. So, if the cost is a concern, make use of your local library. Nowadays we have online libraries, e-books and audiobooks. The excuses are becoming less and less valid.
- Get an account on Goodreads and make one for your children who are interested in reading. They can leave a book review after going through books and create a reading list. Book reviews are a lost art! It’s very fun to go through book reviews to decide whether to purchase a book or not, especially a book review written by a fellow reader friend.
- Enjoy! Talk to your children about books. Discuss them and their ideas and what they think about them or what it inspires in them and reminds them of. Discuss with your partner as well, your children can take these conversations as a lead for future conversations.