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When There Is a Library at Home, Everyone Wins

by on November 4, 2015

More children from low-income families in the Cincinnati area will be getting books for their own personal libraries, thanks to some philanthropic groups. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has partnered with Reach Out and Read to help deliver a free book each month to children from birth to age five. The philanthropic groups have created a venture fund called Every Child Capital, which has goals to ensure more donated money goes towards programs that are working. This program has committed to giving nearly $1 million with the hopes that it is successful, in which case the Cincinnati Public School system will take over the program.

In an interview with WVXU (Cincinnati Public Radio), Superintendent of Schools Mary Ronan cited studies that show that children from lower-income families across the country have only two or fewer age-appropriate books at home.[1] By receiving a book every month, these children can build their ‘personal libraries’ and meet more reading goals by third grade.

In fact, a 2014 study examined data from a project of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that looked at forty-two nations found a strong correlation between books in the home and test scores. University of Nevada-Reno sociologist Mariah Evans, who led the team, found that“regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to the home library helps children do better (on the standard test).”[2]  They also found that books in the home especially benefited children in disadvantaged families.[3]

In the best possible scenario, children would have access to hundreds of books at their reading level through their public library, while still having their very own books at home. These are the books that hopefully get read over and over again—the ones that children end up with under the covers with a flashlight, late at night. Children improve their reading skills by having access to these books whenever they want, then hopefully visit their public library to find something new, or more of the same favorites.

Many of the goals of the home library and public library are similar— we all want kids to become better readers and do better in school. Children’s departments in public libraries have done things for many years that encourage this. Whether it is giving gift cards to bookstores as prizes, or giving away books when children meet summer reading goals, getting good books into children’s hands is the goal.

So what books would you recommend for a child’s home library? These are probably the same ones we buy as gifts at baby showers, or send to relatives on birthdays with a note in the cover. Sometimes they are the ones you don’t always find at the public library because there are flaps and tabs that don’t always hold up so well. They are the ones that are still in the bookshelf of your college-bound child when they are moving out, and the ones adults remember fondly many years later. These shelves probably include titles by Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, Mercer Mayer, and Tomie DePaola among others.  And if you’re unsure what to give to start a home library? Just ask your local librarian.

References and Resources

  1. Cincinnati Public Radio (WVXU). Helping Young Children Build Personal Libraries. Tana Weingartner. http://wvxu.org/post/helping-young-children-build-personal-libraries#stream/0. Accessed October 10, 2015.
  2. M. D. R. Evans, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikora. Scholarly Culture and Academic Performance in 42 Nations. Social Forces, Vol. 92, Issue 4, http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/92/4/1573.full. Accessed November 4, 2015.
  3. Ibid.

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