The Presence of Books and Children’s Intelligence

The number of books in your household has more of an effect on your child’s academic achievements than your education or income, a recently published study (pdf) has found.

Suggesting that the effects seem to be far from trivial, the conclusion indicates that simply the presence of books in their house can make children more intelligent.

Just having books around the house (the more, the better) is correlated with how many years of schooling a child will complete. The study […] 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.

[Another study] found that simply giving low-income children 12 books (of their own choosing) on the first day of summer vacation “may be as effective as summer school” in preventing “summer slide” — the degree to which lower-income students slip behind their more affluent peers academically every year.

Upon reading this I had the same thought as Jonah Lehrer: “But what to do in a world of Kindles and iPads?”



4 responses to “The Presence of Books and Children’s Intelligence”

  1. Can’t recall in which of his books it was mentioned, but I believe Malcolm Gladwell also noted the positive effect of books in a child’s household.

    Especially for young children, I’m still very much in favor of traditional, paper-based books. The more tactile the experience, the better. And as a parent, flipping pages gives me time to discuss what we just read and what might be about to happen next. I’ll admit that i haven’t tried reading an e-book to my 4 yr old, but it just doesn’t seem as practical.

  2. In that case I presume it’s in either Outliers (seems a likely candidate) or Blink as I’ve only read The Tipping Point and it isn’t in there.

    I can understand this preference (I agree) and it seems like it would be a great bonding exercise, too. I assume for this experience the alternative is possibly interactive ebooks.

  3. When you hold a physical book in your hands, and read it out loud, you are reaching all of the different learning types in one “swell foop”!
    Auditory learners
    Tactile learners
    Visual learners
    Conceptual learners
    Bored learners
    Intense learners
    Fidgety learners


  4. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely LOVE paper books.

    However, let’s definitely not bring “learning styles” into the equation… I’ve discussed these at length before.

    The conclusion? Learning styles do not exist.