Practically from the time a baby is born, it seems that he or she is being prepared to read. There are books that are safe for babies to chew on that teach things like colors, numbers and ABCs. There are board books for toddlers with chunky pages and simple stories. Then, as grade school approaches, little ones transition to sounding out words and proudly reading stories all by themselves.

While some people gravitate towards fiction and others gravitate towards non-fiction, the important thing is that our children grow up in homes filled with books.

The average home in the United States has a home library with about 114 books. It turns out that’s a really good thing.

A recent paper called “Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies,” studied 160,000 adults from the years 2011 to 2015. The results show us just how important it is for children to have books around.

The study found that “Bookish adolescents with lower secondary education credentials become as literate, numerate and technologically apt in adulthood as university graduates who grew up with only a few books.” So, even if your children don’t go to college, they can gain many of the same skills just by growing up around a lot of books.

In order to have a significant positive impact, your household only needs between 80 and 350 books. Beyond 350 books, there wasn’t really much of a difference. Buying 80 books certainly costs a lot less than a college education!

These results don’t negate the important of college. Certainly we can deduce that if a child grows up around a lot of books, he or she will be even further ahead with a college education.

But, why do books have such a big impact? According to the study, there are two reasons. The first is that being around a lot of books means that children are growing up in an environment that encourages learning and knowledge.

The second reason is that reading books helps children gain skills that they will need throughout their lives. “These competencies facilitate educational and occupational attainment, but they also lay a foundation for life-long routine activities that enhance literacy and numeracy.”

Even though we have numerous books in our homes, it’s hard to say no when our children ask for more books. This data will make it even harder to say no. Maybe it’s time to get another bookshelf.

How many books do you own?