Thursday, June 24, 2010

That book obsession? It's a good thing

A few years ago, my husband and I were shopping for a new home. We'd visited house after house, and we couldn't figure out why so many of them looked so odd inside to us. Then we realized it - there were no books.

No books. Can you imagine? But it's true. Many of the houses we visited had absolutely no bookshelves. Now, to be fair, they could have packed them away before the house went on the market, or even because the house was on the market, but regardless, a house with no books feels empty and cold.

Not surprisingly, my house is filled with books. Books I've read a dozen times. Books I'm planning on reading. Books I've borrowed from the library and need to hurry and read before I rack up another overdue fine. I apparently suffer from what author Nicholas Basbanes calls in his fascinating tome about book collecting, "A Gentle Madness."

(In fact, he says only somewhat tongue in cheek, obsessive book collecting remains the only hobby to have a disease named after it.)

I'll take it. I love my books. I'll let people borrow them, sure - I want people to borrow them and enjoy them - but I do have a tendency to inquire after them like an over-eager parent: ("Have you started reading it yet?" "I know the first chapter is slow, but it gets better really fast." "Did you like it?" "Did you think the third chapter was funny? Because I thought the third chapter was funny.")

My books are my friends, even though when you pack them up and move, they tend to be heavy, expensive friends. But that's okay. Because I've learned that having those books lying around serves yet another purpose. It's helping my kids - even if they're not reading them. Seriously.

I was reading this great blog written by Jane Heitman Healy called Healy is the Electronic Resources Coordinator for the South Dakota State Library, and an obvious book lover after my own heart. (It's a really interesting blog, by the way; you should check it out).

Anyway, her latest post offers this link to a study done by a professor at the University of Reno, Nevada, that apparently shows parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain.

Now, I've always known that reading to your children is a wonderful thing, but this study takes a love of literature one step further - it makes my book obsession beneficial.

Now when I spend a bundle at the bookstore and get that dirty look from my husband, I can just gaze at him soulfully and say, "But honey - it's for the children."

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