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How many books do you have in your home? A new PIAAC study suggests it makes a difference on how well children will do as adults.

Hello reading, writing, numeracy and technology colleagues,

A new PIAAC international study suggests that the number of books in the house may have advantageous affects for children -- throughout their lives -- in three areas:  adult literacy, adult numeracy, and adult problem solving in a technology rich environment.

If you are teaching adults now, consider asking your students, especially those with children, to count or estimate how many books they have at home. Make clear that they don't have to disclose this information, but that it will be helpful when they read an article you assign, read to them, or summarize. Then share this article and have a discussion about why your students think this could make a difference, if having a large number of books is a cause in itself or just associated with another cause, for example, that more educated parents may also have more books at home. Ask if they think borrowing books from a public library might have the same effect as owning lots of books; or if e-books, for example free books from a public library or from Project Gutenberg, might have the same result.

If you try these activities, let us know what you -- and your students -- learn.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology CoP






Calirenee's picture

Hi David - this is a fascinating question. In our house we have a ton of books.  When my children were little we actually bought most of their books and they developed attachments to certain books and so did I.  We have moved several times recently and the hardest thing to part with were the books I read to them, or books I have read and held special meaning for me.  Actually holding or looking at the book cued memories and learning that resulted from reading/experiencing the book. We have of course borrowed books from the library but it never felt the same.  Both my kids are in grad school now, and the interesting thing is most of their assignments are online although they are occasionally required to buy a book for one of their courses.  I will survey my students informally and see what they say.  Really fascinating topic!

David J. Rosen's picture

Hello Renee,

I look forward to hearing about what your students say about your survey of books at home. I also wonder, if you tell them about this study or if they read the article themselves, what they think about the study's findings, or what questions the study raises for them. Do your students they think they should buy more books, take out books from their public library, read free books online? If they choose to read free books online, would they read these books to their children, or is this reading for themselves? Why do they think reading books has the lifelong impact on not only literacy, but also numeracy and solving problems in a technology rich environment that the PIAAC international study found?

Everyone, I mentioned the been-around-a-long-time website of free books, Project Gutenberg. There are other websites with catalogs of free, online books. Are there particular free book collections that you recommend? If so, why? And how do you use these colelctions? For yourself? With your family? With your students? In other ways?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

Leecy's picture
David at al, another dimension of this issue is that parents who have books in the home are very likely to be good readers. Perhaps that link is even more important than the number of books in the home. Good readers surround themselves with reading materials. 
My brother and I grew up in a home where books lined many walls. However, the books on those shelves did not necessarily engage me. On the other hand, both of my missionary parents were highly educated and avid readers within their own interests. They modeled reading and encouraged me to read a lot of what interested me, including fairy tales and comic books, after I had done my required bible reading, of course. :) Leecy
Ryley Rush's picture

I have a whole room filled with books. My mother left me all of them.

"A new PIAAC study suggests it makes a difference on how well children will do as adults."

As it was in my situation when I was a child I wasn't into books, but as they were standing on the shelves it was interesting for me what was going on there. That's how I started to read and to become more curious.

David J. Rosen's picture

Thanks for sharing this, Ryley. Has anyone else has found books that stand on your shelves at home to be alluring sirens, that the very presence of books engaged you in reading in the past, or does so now? Ryley, do recall what led to your interest in opening and reading these books? Was it just that they were there, or were there other things happening for you? For example, did someone mention or, in another way, did you hear about one of these books that was on your shelf? Everyone, how does a book allure you? Do you hear about books you want to read from a friend? Is it a new book of a favorite author? Does someone say "This book changed my life!" and do you wonder if it will change yours? Do you read book reviews? Are you in a book club? How do your students learn about books that they then want to read? Do you live in a culture of reading where you hear about enticing books all the time? Do your students live in a culture of reading like this? If not, do you have thoughts about to help them live in a culture of reading? Would that culture be different from yours in some ways? If so, what ways? Does anyone know of a student who did not live in a culture of reading and, somehow, that changed and they became an avid reader? What happened to change that for them? Would they consider writing about that experience? Does anyone know of a book that would be interesting for adult new readers about how someone who was not a reader became one? Is there, someplace, a collection of accounts by adult learners about how they became readers? Has there been a Change Agent Issue or other adult learner-focused publication with accounts by adult learners of how they became engrossed in reading books?

Enough questions for now. I hope some of them intrigue you. Let us know what you think.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group



Alecia Ohm's picture

I noticed a "Little Free Library" in my neighborhood. It's a free standing box that allows people to take a book or leave a book. I really like the way it builds community. Maybe it could be resource for people that don't have books at home. Here's the website:

Vicki Sexton's picture

This string of conversation is very relevant to me as I grew up in a home with non-reading parents. My dad was illiterate (only learned to sign his name) and my mother was educated to the eighth grade. Both were intelligent in their own world but put little to no emphasis on learning for learning sake. Being the first-born, I was an overachiever and my first reading memories are reading the Bible with the phonetic pronunciations of the difficult words included. I loved deciphering those unusual words and loved reading the Bible aloud in Bible class. Later, as I progressed to Jr. High School, I remember ordering the little paperback books as fundraisers for the school. I do not actually ever remember reading any of those books and I only began reading as a necessity rather than a pleasure at this time of my life. However, as an 18-year-old high school graduate, a friend mentioned a romance novel, I read it and became hooked, and I literally devoured a particular author's books. As silly as it sounds, I found my love of reading again. Of course, it was not long until I needed something less predictable and more substantial to add to my reading lists. The timing was perfect for me when I was introduced to one of my husband's best friends who was an avid reader and a great conversationalist. It was then that my appetite for more knowledge through reading occurred. Bill D. was a Vietnam vet and his knowledge of history and politics was the catalyst I needed to begin my own library of biographies and books on political history particularly dealing with the Vietnam War and the Presidencies of the '60s through today's political figures. My home is now full of books from my years of collecting. 

While my son was in elementary school, Accelerated Reader was the big thing in Texas. I was happy to encourage him, read to him and with him but even with my home full of books; he still was not an enthusiastic reader. I was heartsick about it. Fast forward to his first year at The University of Texas - Austin and my son calls to ask if I can send him my copy of 'Freakonomics' by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J Dubner because it was on the reading list for one of his classes. Well, I think you can imagine the excitement and pride I felt that I actually had a book his professor found of merit. Needless, to say my son was impressed with his mom's library from that moment on. He now teases me that one day he will be having the largest bonfire but I know that he has matured into an eclectic and educated reader like his mom and he will pass that love on to his children one day. I have to watch him closely now as he begins to take books from my library to add to his. Warms this mom’s heart.

I say all of this to share my agreement with you that the love of books and a home full of books is a great motivator to stem the curiosity of others who are not always our children. Many adults have looked at my collection of great books and I hope they too have found the desire to go home and pick a great novel in which to become to become lost or in which to broaden their knowledge base.