I have made no secret of the fact that I am a bookworm. A dedicated reader. A full-on bibliophile. A nerd, if you must. So I was quite interested when a Twitter pal pointed my attention today to an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education that addresses the question of whether readers are born or made: the old nature versus nurture debate. The author of the article, a frustrated English literature professor, posits that readers are mostly born to be readers and that we cannot teach people to love reading. I would agree that by the time a person is in college – really, by the time they’re 10 – it’s too late to instill an absolute love of and passion for reading…but I don’t necessarily agree that we’re born with some book-lover’s gene that makes us devoted readers. (To be fair, in reading the rest of the article, he does seem to talk more about people who want to tear books apart and break them down, to really study and analyze them, rather than people who simply enjoy reading a good story – two different things in my mind.)
I don’t remember a time when I was not in love with books, but I don’t think that has anything to do with my genetic code. I was raised in a house where the written word was valued. My mom and my grandma read in what little spare time they had – books, magazines, newspapers. They made sure I was always surrounded by books. They read to me often before I could read to myself. They made sure I was able to go to the library whenever I wanted, check out whatever books I wanted, read read read read read whenever I wanted. I received gifts of books for birthdays and Christmas, and they made sure to tell others who wanted to buy me gifts that I wanted books more than anything else. In short, these two women who raised me encouraged my reading at every turn. I was hooked on books before I was 5 years old, and I never looked back, and my loved ones enabled my addiction in every possible way.
Maybe I was predisposed to love reading. Maybe if my family had modeled running and hiking and bike riding as the preferred activities for leisure, I would have turned to books anyway. But really, I don’t think that’s true. I’ve seen so many kids who grow up loving to do the same hobbies their parents and grandparents love and actively encourage (because it is all about encouragement in addition to modeling behaviors – a kid whose father golfs may not become interested in golf if her father doesn’t actively encourage her involvement and participation in the game). I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule; one of my biggest fears about ever having a kid is actually that, in a home filled with books in every room and two parents who can’t stop reading, we’d somehow have a kid who hates books. I’m sure that’s happened before. But I think it would be unusual.
What do you guys think?