Home Libraries Better for Students Than Media Rooms

reading area windowA long-established custom for many teachers has been to ask students to count the number of books in their homes, then report back the next day. In most cases, the number of books is directly proportional to how well or poorly the student will do in school.   

       Flat-screen television sets are in even the poorest homes, but does watching a football game or Dancing with the Stars episode translate into academic enrichment for students?  Just the opposite, in fact. 

    Then, too, the “skills” that go with video gaming don’t always translate to the protracted, methodical thinking that used to be associated with higher education, though gaming does promote adeptness within digitally controlled environments.  

      Most video worlds, however, tend to enhance commercial and entertainment goals rather than academic growth.  In his article “Home Libraries Provide Huge Educational Advantage,” Tom Jacobs asks “Will your child finish college? The answer may be as close as your bookshelves, or lack thereof”:

       In an era of electronic entertainment, the term “home library” increasingly has the word “video” in the middle. But before parents start giving away books to clear shelf space for DVDs, they’ll want to consider the results of a comprehensive new study.

     After examining statistics from 27 nations, a group of researchers found the presence of book-lined shelves in the home — and the intellectual environment those volumes reflect — gives children an enormous advantage in school.

        Unlike pricey media rooms, home libraries are attainable by even the most budget-conscious families–and will remain intact if a future wartime footing easily removes our Great Brain infrastructure.  The testimony of Bonnie Barnes in “Home Libraries Best Indicator of Academic Success” is certainly immediately recognizable by those from previous generations who may or may not have gone to college:  

      One of the biggest influences in my intellectual life, growing up, was access to the bookshelves in my house. My parents were college teachers, and as I lounged in my parents’ den, I would see the books, pick them up, and read them. My mother’s collection of novels such as Native Son and The Sound and the Fury, plays by Henrik Ibsen, and theological books by C. S. Lewis beckoned me to pick them up, open them, and explore them. When I needed something to read, all I had to do was browse my parents’ shelves.

     I also was lucky enough to live across the street from my parents’ college and have access to the children’s reading room, set up for teachers in training, and filled with books for all ages. My friend Debra and I spent one summer, when we were 9 or 10, riding our bikes to that library every day and reading right there in that room—no need to check anything out! We had a good public library in town and we used it too, but the college library was right there and the reading room was a little hideaway we had all to ourselves.

     When I try to imagine a world without physical books, where everything is digital and electronic, I always wonder how our kids would be exposed to the stories? Would they choose to pick up an e-reader and scroll up and down on a tiny screen, or will they just default to the video game and television set sitting right in front of them? How would they be aware that the books exist? That’s one of many reasons I think the physical book will never go away, although e-books are fine for some purposes.

    Wal-Mart is said to have a display system called “Actionality” where likely impulse purchases are put right out in front of the consumers in order to attract their attention and sell more items, whether they were intending to get those things or not. Books need to be out in front of our children, where they can see them, pick them up, and flip through them. Else they will probably never know that a lot of these books ever existed.

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1 comment for “Home Libraries Better for Students Than Media Rooms

  1. Brad Ford
    October 6, 2014 at 8:26 am

    It also follows that counting the number of books in the offices of faculty will establish whether or not the teachers or professors are plugged into the ongoing knowledge base of the subjects being taught. Those without books are, more than likely, simply managers.

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