Posted in Book Stuff, Miscellany

*Kids’ Brain Food

According to a new study published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, owning books is more important than parents’ level of education or job in predicting their kids’ academic achievement.

If parents have a college education, their children have a 16% greater chance of finishing college. But just having lots of books boosts their chances by 20%. Even a small number of books at home makes a huge difference. Just 25 books predicts a child will have 2 extra years of schooling.

According to the study authors:

Thus it seems that scholarly culture, and the taste for books that it brings, flows from generation to generation largely of its own accord, little affected by education, occupational status, or other aspects of class …

(Full story here)
Here’s the thing–and I speak as the mom of 2 book reading kids–I’ve got to ask, do you think Kindle etc will do it? When I’m on the computer, my kids look over my shoulder to see what I’m doing, but if they get the computer from me, they’re off to games (if I let them).

If they take a book out of my hands, they look at the cover, they read the blurb, they flip the pages. My older d, whose taste runs to short funny books, read Anne Tyler’s Digging to America because she saw me reading it, and wanted to race me to the finish. My younger d watched her older sister read, and began picking up her books. Both of them read in bed at night, quickly tucking books under pillows when I walk by.

As toddlers, my children handled books in the bath, they pulled books off shelves and were satisfied with the chaos. They sat amidst it, pretending to read, looking at pictures and text, absorbing the delight of something clearly important as there was a special place for all these books. They were entranced by colour, thickness, size. Turning the books upside down and back to front, they sniffed the pages. Graduating from board books to paper was exciting; so was graduating from picture books to chapter books.

This is one of the reasons for my button on this blog: “I pledge to read the printed word.” I don’t think paper books are dinosaurs. I think that they are slow food for the brain.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

6 thoughts on “*Kids’ Brain Food

  1. I think, Lilian, that tactile element is HUGE, and I think the doomsayers have underestimated its impact and importance in the minds, hearts, and habits of readers. I do think most paperback production will probably grind to a halt at some point in the not-too-distant future, but hardbacks…well, I think they have a very exciting future to look forward to, because people will always, always, ALWAYS want actual books. Children understand the reasons why much more instinctively than all the marketers and economists on the planet. Like your youngest, part of how I came to books was watching my big sister read. The mystery of it was intoxicating. Kids will grow into Kindle-style reading tools much as they are immersed in technology generally, but I personally think these products will be additions, not replacements, and I am yet to find a single reader who disagrees.

    1. Di, it reminds me of my older d’s art interests. Recently she got involved in using a paint program. It was very exciting for a while and then she went back to drawing by hand.

  2. The only people who really think e-readers are the future are the ones riding commuter trains in the eastern metropolises. (and probably some marketing geniuses) And for them, it may be. Otherwise, nah. I frequent used & mixed bookstores and I see no let up to the paper market. ..and more to your point, I think you answered your question with the observation that as soon as the kids are online, the games begin. Too many inherent distractions exist on the internet for it to match the ‘slow-food” of a book.
    I’ve been around enough never to say “never”, but my physical book collection, as for very many others, is happily growing.

  3. I wish my son picked up my books! There are literally thousands around the place. He loved being read to, but since that stopped he hasn’t read much at all. I keep hoping he’ll come back to it – but hoping quietly. He is a 15 year old boy, after all, and not about to embark on leisure activities just because I suggest them…. 🙂

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