Children raised in homes with more than 500 books spent three years longer in school than children raised in homes with only a few books. Growing up in a household with 500 or more books 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” (Evans et al., 2010).
Research suggests that children whose parents have lots of books are nearly 20 percent more likely to finish college. Indeed, as a predictor of college graduation, books in the home trump the education of the parents. Even a child who hails from a home with 25 books will, on average, complete two more years of school than would a child from a home without any books at all (Evans et al., 2010).
Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to a home library helps the children get a little farther in school. The gains are larger for more modest families. Children from families with less gain more in the first few years of school. Moreover, having books in the home has a greater impact on children from the least educated families than children of the university-educated elite (Evans et al., 2010).
In general, the books help establish a reading or “scholarly” culture in the home—one that persists from generation to generation within families, largely independent of education and class—creating a “taste for books” and promoting the skills and knowledge that foster both literacy and numeracy and, thus, lead to lifelong academic advantages (Evans et al., 2010).