Recently I was excited to read new research showing that the number of books in a child's home is a strong influence on how far he or she goes in their educational pursuits. "Scholarly Culture and Educational Success in 27 Nations", a study by four researchers in the United States and Australia, shows that the influence of home libraries is found nearly everywhere in the world and it has more power than the researchers expected. The research team claims definitively that children who have 500 or more books in their home get, on average, 3.2 more years of schooling than children in bookless homes. This influence on children was found to be universal despite differences in gender, culture, economic status or the level of their parents' education.
The study shows that even the children of poor or illiterate parents in China, on average attained the same academic level as children of college graduates if they had many opportunities to read in their growing years.
As a long time interpreter of Maria Montessori's work, I was pleased to read about this newly documented importance of children's surroundings. It confirms, in yet another way, Montessori's strong emphasis on the quality of the environment for children's development. Books are only one aspect of a child's environment, but they are extremely important and I urge parents to pay attention to this new evidence.
Make books a priority in your home environment. Buy them; read them yourself as a model for your children; trade them with other families; give them as gifts; read to your children at least once a day and take your children to the library frequently to select books that appeal to them. If your budget is tight, go to the used book sales that many libraries use as fundraisers. And don't relegate all books to one room in your home. Have books available in as many rooms as possible.
I know that there is a lot of competition for both space and activities in today's homes. TV's, computers, cell phones and electronic games may all claim priority over books. But how many years do they add to a child's formal schooling? This new study shows that a family in which each member has several shelves of favorite books has a better than average chance for each child to attain a higher education!