Does a home library really make you smarter?

Interesting post over at the Idea of the Day blog at the New York Times.  They talk about a recent study that notes the correlation between a person growing up around a home library and going further in their education.  Given that a home with shelves full of books is more likely to be the home of educated people I’m really not too surprised at the conclusions that the study came to but what I found more interesting were some of the comments after the posting.

From “Technic Ally” in Toronto:

For the homeless similar results can be achieved with Kindles or iPads.

Shelves are no longer needed.

Watch out Ikea.

Interesting.  Doesn’t the fact that someone is homeless kind of assume one doesn’t have shelves to begin with?  And if someone is homeless would they have the money to not only purchase a Kindle or iPad let alone have money to purchase ebooks with them?

From “Hai” in New York City (excerpt):

My parents bought an Encyclopedia Americana when I was 10, and I spent many hours engrossed in it, reading at random. It was the beginning of a respect for the past and a grounding in Western civilization. Wikipedia might provide pretty much the same thing today.

As a kid we had a set of the World Book Encyclopedia and I also spent many hours engrossed in the pages of those volumes.  It probably is something that fostered my love of history.  I do have to disagree with Hai that Wikipedia might provide the same thing today because there simply isn’t the physical manifestation to Wikipedia that a book provides.  I can’t browse the shelves of Wikipedia nor can I run my fingers over the spines of all the books trying to find just the right one for that particular moment.    Electronic media won’t, and by definition, can’t, provide the same experience as a home library even if that electronic media holds the whole of the knowledge of the world.

And finally from “mf” in North Carolina:

Sorry, but I’m skeptical that Kindle or iPad would replace this. The browsing experience – particularly the textures, colors, shapes, sizes, and smells of a varied book collection – has a great appeal for the curious child. The arrangement and the juxtapositions lead to new discoveries. I don’t see this happening with a single Kindle, even though it could contain a library of exactly the same size and composition of titles. I daresay that as computers become even more commonplace, children will be even more fascinated by those physical artifacts because they are different, and because books themselves are part of the stories they encounter. And yes, if you had scrolls in your home library, kids would be interested in those too. I agree that intellectual curiosity is the key element here – not convenience, not economics, not currency of information, not novelty – all of which are strong selling points for the Kindle or iPad.

Simply dead on.  I miss the days of having the shelves full of old books to browse at my own leisure.   I love my iPad but it will never replace that experience.

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