Want Smart Kids? Here's What to Do

Betty - posted on 06/29/2010 ( 5 moms have responded )

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Buy a lot of books.

That seems kind of obvious, right? But what's surprising, according to a new study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, is just how strong the correlation is between a child's academic achievement and the number of books his or her parents own. It's even more important than whether the parents went to college or hold white-collar jobs.

Books matter. A lot.

The study was conducted over 20 years, in 27 countries, and surveyed more than 70,000 people. Researchers found that children who grew up in a home with more than 500 books spent 3 years longer in school than children whose parents had only a few books. Also, a child whose parents have lots of books is nearly 20-percent more likely to finish college.

For comparison purposes, the children of educated parents (defined as people with at least 15 years of schooling) were 16-percent more likely than the children of less-educated parents to get their college degrees. Formal education matters, but not as much as books.

From the paper:

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 ... Parents give their infants toy books to play with in the bath; read stories to little children at bed-time; give books as presents to older children; talk, explain, imagine, fantasize, and play with words unceasingly. Their children get a taste for all this, learn the words, master the skills, buy the books. And that pays off handsomely in schools.
Even a relatively small number of books can make a difference: A child whose family has 25 books will, on average, complete two more years of school than a child whose family is sadly book-less.

5 Comments

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Sherri - posted on 06/30/2010

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I very rarely read to my kids as babies, toddlers or in school. However, I myself am an avid reader. My children now absolutely LOVE reading. My oldest is constantly in trouble for reading too much in school. He reads an average of 3 novels a week, easy if not more. LOL!! My oldest is on honor role and has very high aspirations. My cousins daughter was read to every day of her life from the day she was born till 4th grade. She despises reading and books wants nothing to do with them at all. So I don't think it even matters.

Angie - posted on 06/29/2010

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I'm sorry, Betty, it appears that I upset you. I didn't mean it that way. I was simply pointing out that besides a love of books, children have to have a lot of other blessings in place to be smart. I am sure I was mistaken in thinking that the name of the conversation implied that teaching a child to love reading was all that was necessary to be "smart". I have 3 great readers and I have read to them since day 1 but only 1 of my children loves to read - the other do it because they have to. Thankfully, they all do quite well in school and I'm sure their ability to read plays a part in that. The fact that they have involved parents who have taught them to be resposible for their own learning has been equally responsible. Thank you for passing along this important information!

Betty - posted on 06/29/2010

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In reply to your comment. Genetics do play a role but the whole idea behind the article is by exposing children to literacy and books when they are young sot hey will have a head start. When children are born their brain functions with the basics, breathing eating sleeping crying. But the brain will learn things from their experiences. The child learns love from being held and cuddled.It learns trust from its caretakers. Just as the young baby will learn to love books by parents reading to them and having books available to them. Yes not all childen are smart but by providing them with enriching experiences they will be have a head start.

Angie - posted on 06/29/2010

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Great article but it doesn't mention that there is also a connection between maternal care during pregnancy and genetics. Unfortunately, not all children can be smart.

Amber - posted on 06/29/2010

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This is a fantastic article. Books are valuable, more than we imagine. I still have a copy of something my parents bought me when I 1. It's an easter book and even though the cover is missing, the pages are torn and taped back up, I still see it and remember all the wonderful memories I had when reading stories. I learned to read in Grade 1 and have had a love of books ever since. I now have my own little girl and have been reading to her since she was born. she's 6 now and can read better than I could at her age. The word " Occupied" and " believe" came out of her mouth months ago. I am stunned. Reading to your child, providing them with books to read on their own is an incredible method when it comes to literature. She would now rather get books than toys, hear stories at bedtime every night, and talks about the books she's going to buy with her allowance.
She has hundreds of books, on shelves throughout the house, and has every intention of having them rule the house.

If there was one gift you could give to your children, it would be that you share with them the love of reading, and books

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