New Science Shows Libraries Help Children Excel at School

LIbrarians read a book to children at the Bozeman Library.

Love your Library? So do the 50% of Americans who visit libraries each year. And while we all know from experience the tremendous good that libraries bring, little scientific research exists to quantify exactly how big those benefits are.

A new study by Montana State University, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Miami University shows a clear, tangible impact on children: investing in libraries directly improves children’s academic performance in school.

The research economists looked at how capital investments­—injections of funding for renovations and new buildings— affected children’s reading test scores and library use. (The researchers chose to measure capital investments because these spikes in funding made it clearer to connect them to resulting changes; presumably other funding also has beneficial effects.) In addition to a significant boost in reading scores, the researchers discovered that investments increased children’s library visits by 21%, their checkout of items by another 21%, and their attendance at events by 18%. What’s more, those increases persist for at least a decade after the initial investment.

The study builds on previous research demonstrating that library access increases the amount of time that children spend reading and reduces their TV consumption. Research has also shown that longer library hours correlate with less crime.

How’s that for solid evidence of what you’ve known all along? Your Library sets the next generation on a path for learning, discovery, and success.

Want to hear more? NPR’s David Brancaccio dives into the story in an interview with economist Chris Farrell on the Morning Market Report. Listen below.