Friday, June 11, 2010
Owning Your Books Makes You Smarter
The study (authored by M.D.R. Evans, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikorac and Donald J. Treimand) looked at samples from 27 nations, and according to its abstract, 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.
Suddenly we understand how important it is to get books in the hands of children - books that they can call their own. You recall which books you read as a child. If you still had the chance to open one of those books, smell the pages, reread the opening paragraph and closing line, you'd drift back in time.
As a thirteen-year-old eighth grader, I became enamored with J.R.R. Tolkien. I read the trilogy (and the Hobbit) three times in one summer. My bedroom was done up in psychedelic orange and yellow, and I still had hip huggers, body suits and boots in my closet. My hair was down to my waist, parted in the middle, and eight-track tapes were cool. My father was doing a tour in Viet Nam and my mother could do nothing right in his place. A whole scene plays in my head when I touch that book all these years later.
But there's something empowering about owning books, knowing that those words are yours to read, study, reread and dissect at your leisure. It's as if owning the books guarantees you an extra dose of IQ by osmosis. Scoff if you will, but growing up around books gives a person permission to be smarter.
Want to escalate that empowerment in your current household ten fold? Discuss the books you own. Talk about them with your children, your spouse, your best friend or neighbor. Once upon a time it was considered intellectual and socially bright to discuss books. We've become a population that reads less. If talking about your friend's playlist on his mp3 player makes you want to buy music, or comparing notes about a new movie makes you want to buy the DVD, wouldn't the same logic apply to books?
And don't forget - kids imitate their parents. Don't just hand the books to them; appear anxious to read them, too.