Science Says: A Book-Filled Home Has Benefits Beyond Reading for Kids

Research shows that children have much to gain, even beyond literacy, from having lots and lots of books at home. Plus, helpful tips to expand your library.

Oct 24, 2018



Science Says: A Book-Filled Home Has Benefits Beyond Reading for Kids

Oct 24, 2018

As parents, we know we know how important it is to encourage our kids to read. Now, there's science to support our impulse to fill our homes with as many books as possible.

Findings published in the journal Social Science Research show that raising a child in a home filled with books positively impacts her future academic growth and job attainment. Specifically, as Pacific Standard reported, the study found that when it comes to standardized tests, “Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to the home library helps children do better.” That makes sense: A book-filled home encourages a culture of reading for enjoyment and talking about books. 

So, how many books are we talking about? The study shows literacy levels surging at 80 books. Being surrounded by lots and lots of books where they live helps children build vocabulary, increase awareness and comprehension, and expand horizons — all benefiting them in adulthood, according to the study. But beyond literacy, the study's authors found a correlation between homes full of books and both the "ability to use mathematical concepts in everyday life" and "the ability to use digital technology to communicate with others." Books in the home make a difference beyond literacy.

Selecting which titles to add to your bookshelves and building out a robust home library can feel a bit overwhelming. Here are four tips to help you choose books your kids will love and that will keep the whole family reading from the day you bring home your bundle of joy into their teen years. 

Tip #1: Share Books You Loved as a Child 

Nothing models a love of reading better than your enthusiasm when sharing a book you loved from your own childhood. Perhaps you have fond memories of the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Think back to those stories that a loved one or a favorite teacher read to you when you were a kid. This is a great jumping-off point for collecting books to enjoy with your family. Jog your memory with a collection of classic picture books or discover more than a dozen books parents loved as kids.

MORE: 6 Inexpensive Ways to Build a Home Library

Tip #2: Find Books That Match Your Child's Interests

Connecting kids with books they will love is one of the most fun challenges we have as parents of emerging readers, and can be integral in creating life-long readers.

Think about topics your child enjoys or may even be obsessed with. It could be anything from astronomy to zoo animals. Chances are, you can find a book about it.

Scholastic Parents also has plenty of thematic and curated book lists: Sign up for our monthly newsletter for great book recommendations in your inbox or browse our extensive collection of book lists.

Tip #3: Diversify your Bookshelves

A child may have a keen interest in a certain topic: for instance, my son has a good collection of Star Wars books featuring Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. But I make sure to insert others I know will also interest him.

Aim for variety. We want to find books that our kids can see themselves in, as well as books that will help them discover people and cultures around the world. We also want to include a variety of genres of material including fiction and non-fiction. Scholastic Parents offers a kid-friendly guide to reading genres that can help you navigate the breadth of categories.

Tip #4: Give Books to Celebrate Milestones and Accomplishments

We can remember those moments in our life such as turning double digits, winning a contest, or graduating from elementary school. Chances are you remember the people who celebrated with you or a special meal you shared. Why not link a specially chosen book to the memory? Then, when our kids recall their memories about these events they will also connect a meaningful book to that time.

I give my kids books for every holiday (like these festive Thanksgiving books for kids). It's the first present they open on Christmas Eve before all the other gifts the next day, and we snuggle together as a family, enjoying a new title. 

Feel good about that next book purchase for your kids. The science is backing us up: Filling our home with books and reading has big rewards later in life.

Connect with Jodie at Growing Book by Book.

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