The Power of Books

24 Jul

I love books. I like seeing them lined up on my shelves. I like piles of them by my bedside, kitchen table, and toilet tank. I like the way they feel in my hands. I even like how they smell. I love the worlds they allow me to travel to and I love curling up with a good book and getting lost in it. I own a lot of books.

A few weeks ago, I came across this article about how the number of books a parent owns is directly correlated to a child’s academic achievement. It makes sense that if we place value on something, our children will as well. Many years ago, I read an article about a study of children with illiterate, but motivated parents. The parents spent time each day, holding a book and turning the pages in the presence of the children. The children’s reading skills improved dramatically.  I wish I had saved a copy of that study.

I know a young, single mother with three young children who is currently back in school trying to begin a career of her own. Money is tight and family support is short, but each month, when Maria shops at the thrift store for clothing and household needs, she allows her kids one very special treat each. At the end of the visit, each kid gets to pick out one book. She reports that her children are the only ones in her extended family who have not been identified for needing special education services.

It appears that placing value on books and the modeling of reading behaviors is very important to motivate and inspire a love of reading in kids. Reading to them and sharing a love of books adds another layer of incentive for students to become good readers.

This all got me wondering—and I do not know the answer—what effect will there be if (or when) we go to a completely digital library on individual reading devices? Will children even know that their parents own and value books? Will they be able to differentiate between reading, aimless surfing, playing video games or texting?  Will a child feel a sense of excitement and ownership at owning a special book? I understand the appeal of ebooks—many books, less space, less paper, portability, No  dusting and room to get out of my bed without tripping over the piles, to name a few advantages.  I wonder, though, what we will lose in the process?


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