May 21, 2019

Just being around books reportedly enhances intellectual capacity in later life


On a recent episode of 60-Second Science podcast, Karen Hopkin discussed how new research supports the “radiation effect,” in which children growing up around books, and not necessarily reading the books (at least not all of them), can still experience an increase in intellectual growth.

Joana Sikora, co-author of a recent article in Social Science Research, explains how the team used data parsed from years of survey research (2011-2015) for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development to demonstrate “that people who grew up around books had better literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving skills than people who had fewer books growing up but had similar education levels, similar jobs and even similar adult habits in terms of reading or engaging in various numeracy-enhancing activities.”

But wait, there’s more:

“So if we grow up in a house, in a home where parents enjoy books, where books are given as birthday presents and cherished and valued, this is something that becomes a part of our identity and gives us this lifelong incentive to be literacy oriented, to always kind of steer towards books and read more than we would otherwise.”

Given the chance, I would wear a suit made of books. You don’t have to give me another reason to drape every wall with books, but perhaps this is one step in the right direction for children growing up in a world where long-form reading is rapidly becoming a niche practice, something that gets bumped from a person’s routine for countless other forms of media.



Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.