Books fuel drive to learn studyBy Beck Vass
The number of books a child grows up with in their home is related to how many years of education they will complete, researchers have found.
A study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility looked into more than 70,000 cases in 27 countries and found that children who grew up in homes with many books receive three years more schooling than children from bookless homes.
It also found that the number of books a child grows up with was more influential on the years of education they completed than their parents' education, occupation and class.
The study, conducted by four scholars from American universities, has revealed findings which reflect the "books change lives" theme being celebrated this month for New Zealand Book Month.
The project, in its sixth year, aims to promote the use of books with the distribution of four million $5 vouchers to encourage people to buy books.
The American study showed that children who grew up in homes without books completed on average about seven years of schooling.
Children who grew up in homes with many books (500 or more) completed on average 14 years of education.
"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.
"The difference between a bookless home and one with a 500-book library is as great as the difference between having parents who are barely literate (three years of education) and having university-educated parents (15 or 16 years of education)."
The study's findings are no surprise to author and TVNZ 7 presenter Emily Perkins, one of Book Month's reading role models.
Perkins said she got behind the initiative because of how much reading had influenced her life.
"Reading's been one of the greatest pleasures in my life. It just takes you to many wonderful places. It's a very profound, human act and for me, really the pleasure of engaging with a book is just unlike anything else."
She said books were important for children because of the insight they gave into different experiences through a shared language regardless of their place or privilege.
"No matter what a child's circumstances are, books are a door into other lives, other ways of being, other people's realities.
"I see [books] as a crucial point of connection with the rest of the world and in that sense, for children, they are important."
Many of her memorable reading experiences occurred when she was a child.
While books were informative and educational, Perkins said they could be incredibly fun as well, which she believed was equally valuable.
"Books help you become who you are in the world, they're really important - and fun."
NZ Book Month project director Nikki Crowther said it was the first year that Book Month had not focused on Kiwi books.
"This year, we wanted to say all books are good books and we wanted to get as many people involved as possible."
The other reading role models are film-maker Sir Peter Jackson, journalist and producer Carol Hirschfeld and cricketer Stephen Fleming.