I took a picture of part of my home library, above. I am not a neat person, yet, years ago, I had an assistant, Ned Stuart, who took it upon himself to organize my books, which he arranged by category and assigned a permanent place on one of three walls of bookcases. Note that the right wall shelves (not in the picture) have books written by me. The main purpose of this incredible organization is that I can find what I'm looking for. Mine, as it is for many educated people, is a working library. I read a lot of fiction, but I don't have room in my working library for more than a shelf of fiction.
A few years ago I heard that new homes are being built without bookshelves. My grandchildren are doing their college work online. I just listened to an audiobook on a subject I need to know more about. I enjoyed it but it's still faster to scroll through a printed book to find what you noted on first read and what you didn't remember you were looking for that turns out to be a gem. People who have home libraries undoubtedly had a home library of books as children. Studies have shown that:
- The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school. National Commission on Reading, 1985
- Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 2010
- The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998
- An analysis of nearly 100,000 U.S. school children found that access to printed materials is the "critical variable affecting reading acquisition." JMcQuillan, J. (1998). The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions.Heinemann.
- Children growing up in homes with at least twenty books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. Evans, M. D., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., & Treiman, D. J. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28(2), 171-197.
In this time of forced reflection, I find comfort that so many smart people with opinions on TV have their books behind them. Their books are not for show business. They are an organic part of who they are, thoughtful people who have learned from past generations of thoughtful people who wrote books.