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Stories and insights on excellent education.

A Home (and a Life) Full of Books

My coffee table was a curbside find. My desk was left behind by a friend because it didn’t fit into his moving van. My microwave is a 10-year-old hand-me-down from my grandmother. But the bookcases lining my living room are custom built-ins. In my one-bedroom apartment, you will also find six free-standing bookcases and a hall closet that’s been converted into a book nook.

I value books. This is immediately evident when you step inside my home. (Actually, you don’t even have to enter the apartment; pizza delivery guys often comment from the door: “Whoa, you have A LOT of books!”)

Last week, I wrote about how important it is for children to see books around them. When children see homes and classrooms brimming with books, they internalize the message that we love books and consider them important.

When children see homes and classrooms brimming with books, they internalize the message that we love books and consider them important.

A longitudinal study of 27 nations, both rich and poor, showed that “children growing up in homes with many books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class.”

So filling a home with books is an incredibly important investment. But it doesn’t have to be a financial burden.

When I was growing up, my dad installed a wall of shelves in my bedroom using two-by-fours and metal shelf brackets; it was overflowing by the time I reached fifth grade. Many of those books were brand-new. My family and friends bought me books for birthdays and holidays, and when my mom and I went to the bookstore, she always let me pick out a few to take home. It was always clear to me that my family prioritized reading and learning. But this was an investment of time and energy more than money.

Most of my favorites were hand-me-downs from older cousins. I still have lots of them, and even though I consider them my books and have wonderful memories of my mom reading them to me, most of them have my cousins’ names written in pencil on the inside cover.

One magical afternoon when I was about 8 years old, my mom brought a big box of hardcover books down from the attic — dozens of story collections she had saved from her own childhood. Knowing my mom had read these very books when she was my age made them even more special.

Still other books on my shelves had been picked up at thrift stores and yard sales. A few years ago, I was surprised to learn that one of my favorites, The Blueberry Pie Elf, was quite valuable. Having gone out of print, it was selling for upwards of $300 on eBay. My copy has a big “5¢” scrawled in blue marker on the jacketless cover — my mom had bought it for me at a yard sale. (Of course, I didn’t sell it! I treasure my copy, and I’m thrilled that the book has been reprinted for more children to enjoy.)

I want for all children what I myself had: a childhood home full of books, treasured memories of reading with my mom, and the life-long conviction that books are valued.

Written by Sara Yu May 15, 2015

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