Thursday, April 20, 2006

Honey, get the kids out of the house...now!

And this sighted in Friday's Washington Post:

Learning the Wrong Things From Poetry

Fill your house with books if you want little Billy or Beth to grow up to be an academic all-star. Shakespeare is good. But stay away from poetry -- books of poesy on your shelves may dumb down your child.

A research team headed by demographer Jonathan Kelley, of Brown University and the University of Melbourne, analyzed data from a study of scholastic ability in 43 countries, including the United States. The data included scores on a standardized achievement test in 2000 and detailed information that parents provided about the family. The average student scored 500 on this test.

The researchers found that a child from a family having 500 books at home scored, on average, 112 points higher on the achievement test than one from an otherwise identical family having only one book -- and that's after they factored in parents' education, occupation, income and other things typically associated with a child's academic performance. The findings were presented last month at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Los Angeles.

Of course, it's not the number of books in the home that boosts student performance -- it's what they represent. The researchers say a big home library reflects the parents' dedication to the life of the mind, which probably nurtures scholastic accomplishment in their offspring.

They also found that not all books are created equal. "Having Shakespeare or similar highbrow books about bodes well for children's achievement," they wrote. "Having poetry books around is actively harmful by about the same amount," perhaps because it signals a "Bohemian" lifestyle that may encourage kids to become guitar-strumming, poetry-reading dreamers.

2 comments:

Brian said...

You mean my kid would be smarter if it weren't for all the poetry on my shelves? Good Lord, I'd have to shoot her.

I have to wonder, however, what kind of family has only one book in the house, and which book that is. The Bible? The World Book Encyclopedia? I Am Not Spock by Leonard Nimoy?

Josh said...

Uh, maybe I'm slow, but isn't Shakespeare poetry?

Maybe only living poets' poetry is bad for children.