CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Gazette is collecting gently used children's books to share with children around the state.
The Gazette's Happy Valentine's Children's Book Drive runs from now until Feb. 14.
Donors may drop off books at the newspaper's lobby at 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, seven days a week. Children's Home Society of West Virginia and Read Aloud West Virginia have agreed to help distribute the books to children who need them.
"Books are so important," said Gazette Publisher Elizabeth E. Chilton, who created the book drive. "If you love books, you just want to share them."
Having books at home actually makes a difference in how far children go in school, according to a 20-year study published in 2010.
Children in homes with their own books go further in school than those with no books at home, according to a study of families in 27 countries led by Mariah Evans, sociology professor at the University of Nevada.
Having books at home made a difference whether families were rich or poor and whether parents were highly educated or not.
In families with libraries of 500 books or more, children averaged another 3.2 years of education compared to those who had no books.
Even smaller book collections made a difference. Families with as few as 20 books still showed a significant educational difference.
Children need opportunities to practice the skills they learn in school, said Mary Kay Bond, executive director of Read Aloud West Virginia.
"You don't fall in love with books if you don't see them and you don't have access to them," she said.
Other research has shown that children who read for pleasure read more often than kids who don't read for fun. Kids who read on their own also improve with practice and tend to make better grades and test scores than children who do not read for fun.