Never too many books

There has been an argument in my house about the same topic for awhile now, and because of someone’s unwillingness to see things my way, I’ve had to take matters into my own hands. Anyone married will understand.

While said someone was away last week, I began the process of removing his books one-by-one-by-one from my bookshelves and stacking them elsewhere. Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are my bookshelves – and his reading material is interfering with my literary real estate.

Of course, we could stop these turf wars once and for all if both of us chose to weed out books from our collections, but we’ve been down that road. We’ve both dug in our heels and drawn the proverbial line in the sand. No truce is forthcoming.

I feel especially attached to my books after reading a report that confirms what I’ve always known: children who grow up with a home library have higher reading comprehension and better digital communication and mathematical skills. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t detail which specific books work this magic, but I’m going to optimistically assume they all help in some way.

Researchers say 80 books or more in your house is the key to improved literacy, with continued improvement topping off at 350 books (at that point the literacy rates stay steady). The findings came from studies of 31 countries, including Canada.

The advantages of growing up in a book-filled home are well-known, but it’s nice to see good habits quantified by studies like this. Researchers wrote that reading abilities “facilitate educational and occupational attainment” and also “lay a foundation for lifelong routine activities that enhance literacy and numeracy.”

Grandma always told me reading was the best way to learn. My grandparents had a book-filled home, each of them with a full bookshelf behind their respective reading chairs, another full shelf upstairs, and a set of encyclopedias for good measure. They valued education highly and always stressed the importance of reading and learning.

I give grandpa full credit for teaching me to read. I still remember sitting on a little stool at his feet while he said prayers and I followed along in his prayer books. I could read quite well from the age of four, he was happy to remind me over the years, and when I started Grade Primary I was already relatively literate. I don’t say this to brag – it was his accomplishment, not mine.

For years, one of the highlights of my childhood was the day the Bookmobile came. I suppose people my age and younger probably don’t even know what that is! It was a bus filled with books from the Eastern counties regional library, that would travel around the area, allowing people to “go to the library” without ever having to go to the library. It was especially handy for seniors who weren’t able to travel, as it would park in several different locations for easy accessibility.

It would pull up to the top of our driveway and people from all over River Bourgeois would come “to Evelyn and Victor’s” to borrow and return books. I will always remember the layout and the smell of the Bookmobile. For years I looked for The Cat in the Hat and then I graduated to novels recommended by the lady who ran the whole operation – I wish I could remember her name. She knew every book in there, and I’m pretty sure her husband drove the bus.

I have never counted my books, but I’m certain they number well over 100, even after thinning the herd before a yard sale a few years ago and giving away a few piles of children’s books my kids had long since grown out of. If we add my husband’s books, our joint collection gets dangerously close to excess.

Reading about the study inspired me to organize my bookshelves (for the hundredth time). First, I divided the books into fiction and nonfiction, which took a lot longer than I had planned because I kept dipping into some of my favourites for a chapter or two. Those two portions were further sub-divided into books I’ve read and books I’ve bought but haven’t gotten to yet. I noticed the unread pile is growing, particularly the fiction stack, so now that the weather has cooled I should be able to cozy up with a blanket and make up for some lost time.

I didn’t understand when I was a kid how reading books about birds and cooking would help me in other areas of my life, but I definitely understand now, and grandma couldn’t have been more right.