News Editor

Stephen Milligan is the news editor of The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

We tell children of the importance of reading, but how many of us mean it?

How many demonstrate, on a regular basis, the habit of turning off the television and sinking into a comfortable chair to fan the pages of a thick volume of reading material for nothing more than inclination and personal enjoyment?

Are we truly passing on a love for reading to the next generation, or are we just hoping Harry Potter will do it for us?

I wonder because of a recent study I discovered, published recently in the journal Social Science Research, which observes that children who grow up in homes filled with books demonstrate greater academic and technological skills as they grow and develop.

Yes, a kid who lives in a house with groaning shelves piled high with books will not only show better performance in English class, but math, science, history and even computer classes. Reading, it seems, is the basic building block from which everything else springs.

According to the study, kids who grow up in a house with few books are associated with below-average literacy rates. At least 80 books in the house gets that rate up to average, and the literacy rate increases with every additional book up to about 350.

It may seem a bit odd to push for more books in an era where so many people like to download e-books onto electronic devices, or ignore books altogether to just check Facebook on their smartphone, but the numbers are clear: More books means more chance of academic prowess and achievement down the line.

At this rate, then, my nieces should grow up to be geniuses. We keep piling books on them with every holiday, and in between, and spending time at relatives’ homes filled with hundreds upon hundreds of books of all shapes and sizes certainly can’t hurt.

I grew up surrounded by books and while it failed to make me the next astrophysicist, it did make me the walking spellchecker at our office today, so it had some positive effects, at least.

So, go out and buy some books, if you don’t have a few shelves full already. It’s good for your kids. And you might find you enjoy them, too, if given a chance.

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