“Researchers reveal having more books at home when growing up, even if you don’t necessarily read more, improves educational outcomes”
Do you have more books than an Estonian teenager?
If you live in an English-speaking country, the answer is probably no.
A new study from researchers at the Australian National University and University of Nevada in the US has revealed which countries are the world’s biggest bookworms – and discovered that having more books growing up, even if you don’t necessarily read more, improves educational outcomes.
In fact, adults with university degrees, but who grew up with fewer books, had the same level of literacy as those who left school in year 9, but who had a lot of household books as a teen.
The study, published in the journal Social Science Research, found the number of household books at age 16 had a direct positive relationship with literacy, numeracy and IT skill in later years – independent of how much tertiary study a person did, or how often they read as an adult.
On average Australians owned 148 books per house, but the largest chunk of respondents (35%) had only 65. Estonians, who lead the world, averaged 218, and 35% owned 350 books or more.
Norway (212), Sweden (210) and the Czech Republic (204) also beat English-speaking countries like the UK (143) and the US (114). Turkey had the lowest average (27), with 60% of households saying they had only five books.
Lead author, Dr Joanna Sikora from the ANU, said adolescent exposure to books laid the foundations for a “scholarly culture” that gave people life-long improvements in education, regardless of social advantage or disadvantage.