Honey, may I keep all my books now?

My wife frequently bugs me urges me to throw away some of the “junk” I’ve accumulated, mostly piles of books I’ve bought the past 25 years.

I’m far more selective about the books I purchase now and actually do use a high proportion of my recent purchases. But in past decades I admittedly bought many books that I could probably part with… except that I can’t. The books I’ve read have sentimental value. And the garage half full of books I never got around to reading… well, how can I throw them away before I find time to read them?!?!

So I was thrilled to discover “Home Libraries Provide Huge Educational Advantage: Will your child finish college? The answer may be as close as your bookshelves, or lack thereof”, offering a great excuse to never — or, at least, till my 1-year-old leaves for college — toss my books:

After examining statistics from 27 nations, a group of researchers found the presence of book-lined shelves in the home — and the intellectual environment those volumes reflect — gives children an enormous advantage in school.

“Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics,” reports the study, recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.

“This is a large effect, both absolutely and in comparison with other influences on education,” adds the research team, led by University of Nevada sociologist M.D.R. Evans. “A child from a family rich in books is 19 percentage points more likely to complete university than a comparable child growing up without a home library.”

This effect holds true regardless of a nation’s wealth, culture or political system, but its intensity varies from country to country. In China, a child whose parents own 500 books will average 6.6 more years of education than a comparable child from a bookless home. In the U.S., the figure is 2.4 years — which is still highly significant when you consider it’s the difference between two years of college and a full four-year degree.

In fact, I may need to go buy some more right now:

“Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to a home library helps the children get a little farther in school,” they report.

Posted by James on Wednesday, April 14, 2010