Let us ponder: Just how important is a home library filled with children’s books a to a child’s literacy development?
Scholar Marina Puglisi states frankly in her 2017 article in Scientific Studies in Reading: The home literacy environment is a well-established predictor of children’s language and literacy development. Her findings reveal that storybook exposure influences the development of language and a child’s reading/spelling skills.
In a 2019 study, Sikora found that if a home contains only 18 to 63 books, a literacy gain occurs in both reading and numeracy skills. This study even states: home library size remains a significant predictor of adult literacy even after we control for adult education, occupation, parental education, sex, and age.
These studies stood on the shoulders of giants such as Sullivan, who, in 2007, wrote: Children pick up reading habits through seeing their parents read, and through having reading materials readily available in the home.
Evans stated, in 2010, that children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. This 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. It holds equally in rich nations and in poor; in the past and in the present; under Communism, capitalism, and Apartheid. This contention was based in a study conducted in 27 nations across 70,000 cases.
And, Senechal and LeFevre (2014) found that the home literacy environment contributed to the growth in children’s vocabulary and reading.
No pondering needed! The more books in a child’s home, the better the reader! Scientific fact!
Very recent studies do not change this scientific stance at all!
In a 2021 released publication from Wang, when an award-winning bookshelf was placed in the home of children in rural China, the number of extracurricular books that children read increased in all villages, ranging from the lowest but still substantial increase of 127% to the highest increase in one village of 257%! And, in the study 80% of the parents stated that the little home bookshelves not only helped to broaden children’s knowledge but also worked as a medium for emotional communication that could improve the intergenerational relationship of rural families and enhance relations between neighbors in rural communities.
And, most recently, Blaabaek (June, 2022) determined that number of books across time matters, too, stating: I find that the amount that children read depends on both the cultural inputs they currently receive, but also on those inputs received in previous years (which shaped how much they read in previous years).
Moving forward, however, we need to consider how to also ponder digital forms of reading popular within youth culture and necessary during the Covid-19 lockdowns. As Chalari stated in a research article published this year, In today’s global and technological age, we need to rethink what constitutes cultural capital and to adapt its concept to modern reality. Moreover, in today’s age we need to rethink what we mean by ‘reading’. Reading as a form of cultural capital may not just constitute reading proficiency but it may include reading engagement, or the desire to read independently and voluntarily as a bootstrap to further learning. Social or ideological perspectives of reading emphasize that there are multiple ways of reading which are valued differently in different contexts of use.
As we await other findings, however, place as many books in children’s hands (and in their homes) as possible!
Blaabaek, Ed. (2022) Cultural Inputs and Accumulating Inequality in Children’s Reading: A Dynamic Approach. European Sociological Review, 38:3, 425–439, https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcab056
Chalari, Maria. Marios Vryonides, (2022). Adolescents’ reading habits during COVID-19 protracted lockdown: to what extent do they still contribute to the perpetuation of cultural reproduction?, International Journal of Educational Research, 115, 102012, DOI: /10.1016/j.ijer.2022.102012.
Evans, M.D., et al. (2010). Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success: Books and Schooling in 27 Nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. 28.2, 171-197.
(2017) The Home Literacy Environment Is a Correlate, but Perhaps Not a Cause, of Variations in Children’s Language and Literacy Development, Scientific Studies of Reading, 21:6, 498-514, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2017.1346660
Sikora, Joanna, M.D.R. Evans, Jonathan Kelley (2019) Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies, Social Science Research, 77, 1-15, DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.10.003
Sénéchal, M., & LeFevre, J. A. (2014). Continuity and change in the home literacy environment as predictors of growth in vocabulary and reading. Child Development, 85:4, 1552-1568.
Sullivan, A. (2008). Cultural capital, cultural knowledge and ability. Sociological Research Online, 12:6, 91-104.
Wang, Zizhou, Xiaofang Zhang, Ge Zhang (2021). Creating a ubiquitous reading environment for children in undeveloped rural areas: An action research project, Library & Information Science Research, 43:4, 101118, DOI: 10.1016/j.lisr.2021.101118.