Research into reading, the promotion of reading and literature education

Nature and nurture

-> Both genetic aptitude and the environment have an effect on the reading development of children. Genes play a larger role in reading proficiency; reading behaviour is determined to almost the same extent by genes and the environment.

-> 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).

Genetically-determined aptitude appears to have a substantial effect on one’s ability to learn to read. Genetic differences may account for approximately 66% of the differences in reading proficiency between children, while the environment explains the remaining 34% (Davis et al., 2014). Children of parents who are skilled readers generally have a stronger genetic aptitude to become skilled readers themselves. As a result, some of the effects of environmental factors are even eliminated. Parents who are skilled readers and who pass on strong ‘reading genes’ to their children often offer them a stimulating reading education (Van Bergen et al., 2017).

Reading behaviour is determined less by heredity than by reading skills. Genes and the environment are responsible almost to the same extent for reading in one’s free time (Van Bergen et al., 2017). 

Aptitude develops to its full potential thanks to education

The importance of ‘reading genes’ 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. 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).

In general, parents, teachers and librarians play a stimulating role in the socialisation of reading despite the genetic differences which exist between children with regard to reading.

Leesmonitor (2020). Nature and nurture.
Reading Monitor (2020). Nature and nurture.