When people visit our home for the first time, they sometimes comment on the number of books that we have. Glancing around the apartment right now I see books in the living room, by the entrance, on the windowsill, on the side-table, in the office, on the filing cabinet, in the bathroom, in the bedroom, in the closet — the bedroom closet, as a matter of fact, has about 500 books in it that couldn’t find a home anywhere else. I used to like to have stacks of books on the floor, but my wife no longer permits that extravagance. Our daughter, with her bookish enthusiasm and nascent passion for organization, has thought once or twice to store her books in the toilet.
I like to have books all over the place. I like the idea of being surrounded by books, and I like the idea of having my kid(s) grow up surrounded by books. I hope that they will be encouraged to pick them up and read them, following their own fancy. I have suspected, too, that a home library is good for the intellectual development and scholastic success of children. It turns out that I was right:
Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. This 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. It holds equally in rich nations and in poor; in the past and in the present; under Communism, capitalism, and Apartheid; and most strongly in China. Data are from representative national samples in 27 nations, with over 70,000 cases, analyzed using multi-level linear and probit models with multiple imputation of missing data.
It is not, of course, the books themselves that have this good effect; no doubt they stand as proxies for other factors. But having books, and reading them, has got to be a good start.
(Hat-tip: First Things)