Research into reading, the promotion of reading and literature education

Children’s characteristics

-> Both the genetic aptitude and the environment have an effect on the reading development of children.

-> A stimulating reading environment ensures that the genetic aptitude develops to its full potential.

Reading skills: largely a question of genes

Some children are better equipped by nature to learn well than others. Reading proficiency is not only a question of family environment and education, but is also genetically determined. For instance, monozygotic twins (twins born from one ovum) show stronger similarities with regard to reading proficiency than dizygotic twins (twins born of two different ova), or brothers and sisters who are not twins. Monozygotic twins share the most genetic characteristics (Swagerman et al., 2015).

There appears to be a substantial genetic component to children’s ability to read. Genetic differences may account for approximately 66% of the differences in reading proficiency between children; the environment accounts for 34%  (Davis et al., 2014).
Children of parents who are skilled readers generally have a stronger genetic aptitude to become skilled readers themselves. Due to their genetic aptitude some of the effects of environmental factors are even eliminated. Parents who are skilled readers and who pass on ‘reading genes’ to their children often offer them a stimulating reading education (Van Bergen et al., 2017).

Aptitude develops to its full potential thanks to education

This does not mean that the reading skills of children are determined at birth. A genetic aptitude for reading will only bear fruit if the child has contact with books and has the opportunity to practise reading. There are considerable differences in reading skills between children from various countries and different environments. It has emerged from other research that more than 91% of the differences in reading difficulties which children experience can be explained by ecological factors, such as the country and type of family, and for less than 9% by characteristics of the child himself (Chiu, McBride-Chang & Lin, 2012).

All in all, parents, teachers and librarians play a stimulating role in reading socialisation, despite the genetic differences (with regard to reading) which exist between children.