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A new study (published in the scientific journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility) suggests that it can–and with a substantial body of evidence to prove it. Research for the study was extensive, surveying over 70,000 people. If you think that is impressive, wait until you read this: the study covered 27 countries over a period of two entire decades.
A New Definition of Book Smarts
The results of this 20-year survey were highly convincing. Researchers found a strong correlation between the number of books in a child’s home with that child’s success in and enthusiasm for academia. For example, children who had over 500 books in their household on average completed 3 years more schooling than those whose homes had a scant number of books. A Chronicle of Education article that outlined the study noted that these students were also 20 percent more likely to finish college than their book-less peers.
One of the most surprising findings, however, was that simply owning books had a stronger correlation with children’s intellectual success than did their parents educational background, occupation, or social class.
Who You Are, Not What You’ve Got?
This type of research has shown up before. The popular New York Times bestseller, Freakonomics discussed a similar correlation between children’s intellectual accomplishments and their parents’ preference for reading and displaying books. However, the authors suggested that it wasn’t so much the presence of the books but the implications of their presence that made a difference to children.
From the “Freakonomics” standpoint, parents who enjoyed having books on hand were more likely to be the type of people to appreciate and value books, literature and education. And it was those appreciations and values that were passed on to encourage their children’s academic success, not a magical influence of a stack of unread paperbacks.
Regardless of whatever correlation to academic success there may be by having books around the house, a trip to the library or bookstore certainly can’t hurt and there’s nothing like reading good book!