190218 COMM Kathy McConnell books1.jpg

20 books can make a difference in a home library.

My dad was a grocery clerk, who read westerns. 

My mom was an elementary school teacher, who read mysteries. 

Instead of letting us watch Saturday morning cartoons, my mom took my sister and me to the library. 

We always had books in the house, some from the library and some of our own. Everyone in the house read a lot.

Did having books always in evidence make a difference for my sister and me? 

Mariah Evans, a professor from the University of Nevada conducted two studies, one in 2010 and one in 2014, “Books in Home as Important as Parent’s Educational Level.” 

They correlated the quantity of books in a child’s home with the level of education the child might attain. 

The results indicated that as few as 20 books made a difference. In fact, the total number of books in a house was a better predictor of a child’s future educational level than whether the parents were poor or rich, high school dropouts or university grads. 

Both my sister and I earned master’s degrees.

The study noted that 20 books are good, but 500 is great.

A few years ago, I stayed in a walk-up flat in the Harlem neighborhood of New York for a week. 

The mother, my hostess, was African-American and immigrated from Portugal when she was a child. 

She had just seen her son off to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he had a full ride scholarship. 

Did the Evan’s study bear a relationship to this man’s educational attainment?

I got the answer when the mother asked me if I would like a chocolate. I never say “no” to chocolate. 

She went to one of the many windows in the dark flat. All the velvet drapes were closed over the windows, to avert, I thought, prying eyes. 

She drew a set aside and reached for the precariously balanced box of chocolates on (surprise!) stacks of books in the windowsill. 

Every window behind a drape was a bookshelf piled with books – tickets to college. There were at least 500 books.

Walla Walla has many resources for getting books into the hands of children and their families. 

Books for Babes gives a bag of books to every child born in Walla Walla. Leadership Walla Walla worked with inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary to build eight Free Little Library boxes, adding to two existing ones in town. 

Members of the Baha’i Faith donate approximately 70 good-quality children’s books a month for those using the services of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. 

Add in our city, county and school libraries, two great bookstores and the upcoming Walla Walla Affiliate of American Association of University Women annual book sale Feb. 22-24 and we as a community can get books into the hands of all our families, benefiting the school achievement of our children. 

Consider donating your time, money or books to the effort.

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