Book Ownership and Literacy

Can book ownership affect literacy? Research suggests that raising children with home libraries has a positive impact on academic growth and job attainment. Growing up surrounded with books helps children achieve better literacy, numeracy and technological problem solving in adulthood.

“…book-oriented socialization, indicated by home library size, equips youth with life-long tastes, skills and knowledge.” – Joanna Sikora, M.D.R. Evans and Jonathan Kelley

How these benefits occur from having a home library requires further research. However, we all know that children emulate their parents. If parents are readers, children will grow up in a scholarly culture that creates habits and values that last into adulthood.

How many books are needed to see these benefits? In 2018, the National Literacy Trust’s (UK) report Book ownership, literacy engagement and mental wellbeing found that kids who have 60 or more books at home are 5.5 times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than their peers who have fewer than 10 books. Interestingly, those children who owned books had higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who didn’t have any books.

An unfortunate finding is that low income children often miss out on the educational and emotional benefits of book ownership. Children without books at home are also less likely to engage in other forms of reading such as websites, magazines or newspapers. As such, providing access to books through schools, libraries, book exchanges (for example Little Free Libraries), as well as supporting organizations that supply books to low-income families, is important to help balance the benefits across socio-economic boundaries.

Read about our IPALS programs that not only offer free books, but a wealth of literacy support for families.

Further reading and tips

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