It’s True: Books Do Make You Smarter

Dec 15, 2015

Credit Alexa Ard

A recent study, conducted in part by University of Nevada, Reno researchers, gives us proof of what we’ve already long assumed: owning books actually makes us smarter. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick reports. 

For this study, researchers analyzed standardized test scores of children in 42 different nations and learned that kids who have books at home do better on tests, regardless of their country’s development, political history or ideology.

Mariah Evans is a professor of sociology at UNR and one of the main researchers. She says the most positive outcomes were found among the most disadvantaged children.

“The crucial differences are way at the bottom. So the difference between a home that has two books and a home that has three books in it is a big difference," Evans says. "And the other thing is they matter especially for parents with little education. If your parents didn’t go very far in school, each additional book is associated with a bigger gain in achievement.”

Evans says that with a study this large, she couldn’t get all her questions into the research. She still doesn’t know if certain types of books can make a difference, like biographies versus comic books. And it’s not yet clear if parents reading books with their children actually helps improve academic scores.

Yet, even without these details, Evans says having kids access books early on is the best way to guarantee they don’t fall behind.

“We don’t have a lot of programs that really work very well for severely disadvantaged children," Evans explains. "So, engaging with the reading, and getting the books in their hands and helping them learn to think and talk about them is very important.”

Evans says she hopes her research can help improve academic scores in the U.S. that have stalled in recent years.