My mother made sure our home was filled with books. She took me to the library at least once a week, she read challenging books to me often, and she gave me money for every single school book fair. She nurtured a love of reading in me, and throughout my life I have surrounded myself with books of all shapes and sizes. It turns out she was on to something.

A 2010 study published in the journal ‘Research in Social Stratification and Mobility’, found that having books in the home is positively correlated with the number of years of schooling children will complete. The more books in the home, the higher a child can go. For generations, educators have believed that the strongest predictor of academic success was the education level of parents.

This study determined that growing up in a house with 500 or more books is “as great an advantage as having university-educated, rather than unschooled parents.”

The study looked at samples from 27 nations over a 20-year period, and has since partnered with other institutions to research in a total of 42 countries.  Mariah Evans, the lead author of the study, says the findings should have an impact on economic development and education. Community workers, educators, and caregivers should spend time investing in one-on-one reading time and book drives for low-income families. Parent education is key. Parents need to believe that introducing reading in the home is highly beneficial.

Another study, published in the journal ‘Reading Psychology’ in 2010, found that giving children 12 books of their choosing at the beginning of summer vacation drastically helped to prevent summer reading setbacks.

So, where to go for books? In researching this article, I discovered that Vietnam is home to nearly 2,000 commune-level libraries, 613 district libraries, 63 provincial libraries, and a national library.

Public libraries in Vietnam are also free to the public, open long hours, and employ relatively well-qualified personnel. In 2009, the Asia Foundation started a project in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a more welcoming atmosphere in the public libraries here. 

In 2015, Ho Chi Minh City opened a new library inside the General Sciences Library on Ly Tu Trong called the “S.Hub.” This library consists of four areas – a lobby, a multimedia room, a research room, and a group discussion area – and is free to use after purchasing a one-year membership card for 10,000 VND. The response has been wonderful and S.Hub is becoming an important place, especially for students.

Shannon Brown is a head teacher at Little Genius International Kindergarten with a Master’s in Public Health. She cultivates healthy living by practicing yoga and rock climbing and has been living and teaching in Ho Chi Minh City since 2014.