Readers: Born or Bred? Posted by Maureen Lang

I’ve heard it said that if you read to your children, then set the good example of reading your own books where they can see you doing so, children are more likely to grow up to be readers themselves.

I wonder if that’s really true. It sounds like it should be true. I certainly want it to be true, because I’ve done that with my own children—mainly because it came naturally to me. I wanted to read to them because it was fun. And I couldn’t help but read in front of them because, well, I’m a reader.

However, am I a reader because my parents read to me? No. I may very well be a writer because my mother told my sister and I stories that she made up out of her head — inspiring me to make up stories of my own — but I don’t recall ever seeing my mother sit down to read a book. And my father? Well, he did read portions of a couple of non-fiction books about World War Two, mainly because he’d lived the experience and wanted to compare what they were writing to what he recalled. But he never once read a book to me. Overall I’d have to say he didn’t set an example as a reader, either.

As for my nurturing example: my daughter is an even more avid reader than I am. Since she is my oldest, I might once have taken the credit and said she’s a reader because I nurtured it in her. But since I also have a fourteen year old son who must be reminded (i.e. forced) to do his reading homework, a son who saw in me the same things my daughter did, he proves my fine example did nothing. He’s a reader only through coercion.

Perhaps reading passions have something to do with differences between boys and girls. Or perhaps a reading gene has yet to reveal itself in my son. With age he may recall my example of reading and take it up himself someday. I can only hope.

But at this point in my observation, I’d have to say readers are born, not bred.

What do you think? Were you born a reader, or bred to become one? Perhaps a mix of both?

About Maureen Lang

Author of a dozen novels, Maureen Lang has won the Selah Award, a Holt Medallion, FHL's Reader's Choice Award, and been a finalist in such contests as the Christy, the Rita, the Carol, Book Buyer's Best, and others. Before publication she was the recipient of a Golden Heart and a Genesis (then called the Noble Theme). She resides with her husband and kids in the Chicago area. Titles by Maureen Lang All In Good Time Bees In The Butterfly Garden Springtime Of The Spirit Whisper On The Wind Look To The East My Sister Dilly On Sparrow Hill The Oak Leaves Remember Me Pieces Of Silver
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6 Responses to Readers: Born or Bred? Posted by Maureen Lang

  1. I clicked through to read this because it is something I’ve thought a lot about. I come from a family of 4 children. Growing up, I (the oldest) was the only reader in the bunch. My sister became an avid reader in her 30s and the other 2 tend to read more now as well. Fast forward to my own kids. They heard me read to them. Saw me (and their father) reading all the time. And had plenty of books at their disposal. So far, none of the 3 are readers, although the youngest is showing signs that he might get there. Eventually. So I’ve come to the conclusion that like food, you can offer up reading in every way to your child but you can’t make them “eat”, so to speak. And I’ve had to come to realize that just because they aren’t readers (yet!) doesn’t mean I didn’t teach and model it well. It’s just the way they are made. But looking at my sister’s history, I know there is still hope!


    • Maureen Lang says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Ann! I share your hopes. When I was growing up, I was the only avid reader of six kids, but both of my sisters became big readers after they finished schooling. My 3 brothers aren’t much for reading, except for non-fiction. One will read science fiction/fantasy novels – and SOME of my books. 🙂 Two of his kids want to be novelists, though, so the lure of a good book is being carried on!

      You’re so right about the food comparison – we can set the good example of eating right, and just hope they carry that through to adulthood (even when the culture around us says otherwise).

      Thanks for clicking through!


  2. Bonnie says:

    I hope I am inspiring a love of reading for my daughter – she is almost 9 and likes to read a little, but she’s picky, and I think there just isn’t much to pick from at her age and reading level. There needs to be more and better kids’ books. She does see me read though, all the time, and she knows how much fun book club is!


    • Maureen Lang says:

      My thought is even if kids don’t necessarily pick up the reading habit from their parents, it certainly can’t hurt to present this habit to them! So inspiring the love of reading in your daughter is a great thing to do. And what’s better than doing that in the community of a book club?? I love my book club.

      I know the Young Adult market is growing all of the time, but I’ve also heard how so much of the content is questionable. It’s probably important to read a book together at that age, like your own little book club – and then know which authors to trust if she wants to read more YA books than you do. Just thinking here…


  3. PatriciaW says:

    I’ll say a mix. My family reads because I grew up surrounded by books. My earliest memories of leaving the house were to go to the local library. Reading became as natural as breathing. I very much think it’s a part of who I am (born) as much as what I was taught (bred).

    With my boys, they too are surrounded by books. I’ve taken them to the library. I read with them. They are readers, although not yet to the extent that I am.

    But I have many friends who didn’t grow up in this manner and thus, don’t read or at least not very much. Sadly, reading, if it ever happens, is a special event for them.


    • Maureen Lang says:

      I’m totally with you, Patricia!

      Also nodding vigorously along with the observation that it’s just so sad when someone goes through live without the enjoyment of reading. I know there are huge numbers of people who don’t take the time to read, but I’m convinced they’d love it if they did! I guess there are just too many things dividing our attention, and reading a book does take longer than watching a movie to get that “story craving” I’m convinced we’re all born with. But still, imagining a story can be more vivid than even the biggest screen!


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