Study Confirms Growing Up in a Home Filled With Books Is Good for You

iStock.com/clu
iStock.com/clu

People who buy more books than they can possibly read can now use science to justify their spending sprees. As Pacific Standard reports, new research confirms that people who grow up with books at home tend to have higher reading comprehension and better mathematical and digital communication skills.

But how many books is enough to make a difference? The magic number seems to be above 80, according to a team of researchers led by senior sociology lecturer Joanna Sikora of Australian National University. Those who had around 80 books at home tended to have average scores for literacy—defined as "the ability to read effectively to participate in society and achieve personal goals”—while owning fewer than 80 books was associated with below-average literacy. Literacy continued to improve as the number of books increased to about 350, at which point the literacy rates remained steady.

Their findings are based on comprehensive surveys taken between 2011 and 2015 by the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies. Respondents were between the ages of 25 and 65, and they came from 31 countries, including the U.S. and Canada. First, they were asked to estimate how many books they had at home when they were 16 years old. After racking their brains for a mental image of their childhood libraries, they were tested for reading comprehension, their understanding of common mathematical concepts, and their ability to use digital technology as a communication tool. The results showed a positive correlation between these skill sets and having books at home.

"Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills in these areas beyond the benefits accrued from parental education, or [one's] own educational or occupational attainment," the researchers wrote in their paper, published in the journal Social Science Research.

The greatest impact, not surprisingly, was seen in the area of reading comprehension. Likewise, a 20-year study from 2010 suggested that access to a home library impacts a child’s educational attainment just as much as their parents’ occupations and education levels. Researchers aren’t sure if digital books will have the same positive effects if they eventually outnumber printed materials, but the team behind this latest study did point out that “home library size is positively related to higher levels of digital literacy.”

[h/t Pacific Standard]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

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Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

A New Book by J.R.R. Tolkien Contains Previously Unpublished Essays About Middle-Earth

J.R.R. Tolkien photographed circa the 1940s.
J.R.R. Tolkien photographed circa the 1940s.
Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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It has been more than 80 years since J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit first appeared in bookstores in 1937—followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy during the mid-1950s—and the enthusiasm for all things Middle-earth doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon. While the premiere date for Amazon’s prequel TV series hasn’t been announced yet, another important date in 2021 has: June 24.

On that day, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) will release The Nature of Middle-earth, a book of heretofore unpublished writings by Tolkien himself. (HarperCollins will publish an identical edition in the UK.) As avid fans likely already know, this won’t be the first supplemental Middle-earth material in existence. Tolkien wrote prolifically about his fantasy world, and much of his other content was published posthumously—most notably The Silmarillion, an extensive collection of stories edited by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. As literary executor of his father’s estate, Christopher Tolkien edited and oversaw the release of most Tolkien works until his death at age 95 in January of this year.

Time to solve the mystery of which Middle-earthers can grow facial hair.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

According to Gizmodo, The Nature of Middle-earth was edited by NASA computer engineer Carl F. Hostetter, who also happens to be a venerated Tolkien scholar and the head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship (E.L.F., for short). HMH revealed in a press release that this latest compilation will contain previously unknown details about “Elvish immortality and reincarnation,” “the Powers of Valar,” “the lands and beasts of Númenor,” and “the geography of the Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor.” It will also reportedly clear up the confusion over which races (and sexes) can grow beards in Middle-earth, a topic that crops up on internet message boards with surprising frequency.

U.S. residents can pre-order The Nature of Middle-earth from Amazon now for $24.

[h/t Gizmodo]