A new study by the ANU School of Sociology has found that people who grew up in book-filled homes have higher reading, math, and technological skills.
The paper was co-authored by Joanna Sikora, along with colleagues from the University of Nevada.
The researchers analysed data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies. Its surveys, taken between 2011 and 2015, featured adults (ages 25 to 65) in 31 nations, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Singapore, and Turkey.
All participants were asked how many books there were in their home when they were 16 years old. (One meter of shelving, they were told, holds about 40 books.) They chose from a series of options ranging from "10 or less" to "more than 500."
Literacy was defined as "the ability to read effectively to participate in society and achieve personal goals." Participants took tests that "captured a range of basic through advanced comprehension skills, from reading brief texts for a single piece of information to synthesizing information from complex texts."
Numeracy tests measured the "ability to use mathematical concepts in everyday life," while IT-related tests "assessed the ability to use digital technology to communicate with others, as well as to gather, analyze, and synthesize information."
The results suggest those volumes made a long-term difference. "Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills in these areas beyond the benefits accrued from parental education, or [one's] own educational or occupational attainment," the researchers report.
Not surprisingly, the biggest impact was on reading ability. "The total effects of home library size on literacy are large everywhere," the researchers report.
The original paper was published as 'Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies', Social Science Research, 2018.