Back in college I studied Psychology as one of my A Levels, and one of the aspects I found most interesting was the idea of nature vs. nurture. I think it’s fascinating to think about whether the aspects of your personality are inset within you at birth, or whether you acquire them as a result of your upbringing and life experiences, and I’ve always personally felt it’s a combination of the two.
For example, I’m one of three children in my family (I have an older brother and a younger sister…and I like to think I don’t suffer from that whole ‘middle child syndrome’ thing!) and whilst we were all brought up the same, all three of us are completely different, which implies that we were all born with our own individual characteristics. But then again, we all had very different school experiences (my brother and sister were both quite popular, whereas I wasn’t, and was bullied throughout school) which may account for some of our different traits (eg. me being much more reserved and liking my own company more).
But anyway, I’m digressing! What I want to talk about in this post is whether or not being an avid reader is a result of nature or nurture. In other words, are readers born or made? Are people who grow up to love reading naturally inclined to like reading, or is it to do with their upbringing and life experiences?
If I look back at my own history as a reader, it seems like I’ve always been inclined to read, even before I could actually physically read. My mum always likes to tell the story of how as a baby I would hold my little books close to my face (we now realise that’s because I was long sighted and needed glasses!) and chatter away as if I was actually reading. I wanted to read even before I actually could, and when I finally read my first full book at three years old (The Gingerbread Man) I never looked back!
And whilst my parents did always encourage my reading, neither of them are readers themselves, and neither my brother or sister have grown up to be readers. To me that suggests that it wasn’t a learnt habit – I didn’t see my mum reading as a child and copy her – and it didn’t develop specifically because of my upbringing, because, as I say, my brother and sister were brought up exactly the same and neither of them are readers.
Which can only mean that I was born with some kind of character trait that makes me inclined towards being a bookworm – I’m a ‘natural born reader’, if you will – and maybe I was always destined to be a reader, or perhaps something in my upbringing activated that pre-existing inclination…I really don’t know! I was interested and so had a bit of a read around about the subject on the internet and came across some really interesting articles, most of which seemed to come to the same conclusion as me, that a love of reading is a natural trait that you’re born with (you can read the best one I found here, if you’re interested).
But then how does that explain people who get into reading later on in life? Possibly they have the natural inclination but it isn’t triggered until later? I really don’t know, but I think it’s an interesting thing to think about, because personally I really can’t imagine my life without reading. Even when I have been through slumps (one of which lasted a whole year), I have always known that I’ll come back to it, because that’s what I do: I’m a reader.
So I’d love some more opinions! Do you think readers are born or made? What does your own reading journey suggest?