Booksellers love quotes about reading from famous writers and thinkers in history. Walk into any bookstore and you will see quotes like Neil Gaiman’s “A book is a dream you hold in your hand.” Many may remember when Amazon used to send books along with swag with a printed quote from Cicero: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
Common wisdom says that smart people read books. But here’s the question: Do smart people just gravitate to books, or do books make people smart?
Mariah Evans has been asking those questions, and a lot more. She’s a professor at the University of Nevada/Reno and she recently co-authored a study that concluded that the more books kids have in their homes, the better they will do in school. And possibly the better they will do in life.
Evans says the payoff is more pronounced for kids who might not have familial exposure to books, and that as few as 25-50 books can boost a kid up one grade level. But more books even for kids with parents who read can make a difference, too.
Evans said her study also doesn't distinguish between types of books. It only looks at test scores for early high school aged kids. Any book, she posits - even ones on the digital machines - will have the same effects on kids. They will have even more effect, she said, if parents talk to their kids about the books they're reading.
Mariah Evans, professor, Department of Sociology and Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station/faculty member, interdisciplinary PhD program in social psychology/ coordinator, Applied Statistics Program
University of Nevada, Reno