Nature or Nurture

My sisters, mother, and her mother all read extensively, my father and brother, not so much so. It didn’t dawn on me until I was an adult that only the women in my family were avid readers, and I wondered why that was so. My first thought was it had to do with genes, that only the females in my family had inherited the reading trait-if there is such a thing. Then it came to mind it might be learned behavior.

I don’t recall ever seeing my father read when I was growing up, but my mother was another story. She didn’t have much leisure time, taking care of a husband and seven kids, a farm/ranch, and holding down a job in town from time to time saw to that. But when she did have a minute or two free, it would be spent between the pages of a book.

Most of Mama’s days were spent moving from one chore to the next with no breaks in between; there was no time to read. So she made time. Most nights when she went to bed, she read for a while before turning off the lamp and settling in beside Daddy—if he was there and not working out of state. She traded much-needed sleep for the world of words.

When I was around four, Mama’s mother came to live with us after Grandpa died. Granny was a reader too. I remember sitting by her in the old wooden rocker she favored while she read to me in her soft, gentle voice. I remember wishing I could read for myself, and envying my brother and sisters who had been taught to read at school. I wanted to go to school and learn to read too (Once I got there, I hated it…a story for another time).

I don’t recall seeing my brother read a book. I think he was busy helping Daddy and doing guy things, and picking on me and another sister who were younger than he was. Maybe he thought reading wasn’t manly. I don’t know; you would have to ask him.

I have one child: a son who is not a reader. When he was small I read to him, and growing up, he saw me with my nose in a book every chance I got. Still, he didn’t read for pleasure. (He listens to books now, so I am at least grateful for that.) I wondered where I went wrong. Then all squinty-eyed I looked to his dad, an outdoorsman, and saw the problem. I had produced a child with a man with no interest in books.

I came to the conclusion that either my son did not inherit my love of reading, or by observing his father and other males in the family, subconsciously believed that reading was not an acceptable male pastime.

Nature or nurture, or a combination of both…I still don’t know the answer.

What do you think?

©️2019 KT Workman

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KT Workman

KT Workman grew up in the rural South without the benefit of cell phones or the Internet, a time and place that has heavily influenced her writing. To this day, when she puts pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—nine times out of ten her mind veers south onto that old, familiar road. It goes home. KT resides in Arkansas where she writes a wide variety of gothic and speculative fiction, poetry, and dabbles in watercolor painting and amateur photography.

46 thoughts on “Nature or Nurture”

  1. I think it’s complete nurture. I loved to read when I was really young (comic books, science fiction), and then school came, and I was forced to read stuff I had no interest in. This lasted all through high school, and then graduation and independence hit, and I devoured books by the dozen every month. Still, do. Both my parents read, but mom is complete fiction, and dad is nonfiction. Me I prefer both.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your input, Glenn. My mom read all fiction as well, but I read both fiction and nonfiction. As far as writing goes, I write mostly fiction. One of my sisters writes nonfiction exclusively. No other writers in family that I know of. Is there any writers in your family?


  2. Another thought, girls mature faster than boys, become self-aware quicker than boys, and thus look inward earlier than boys, so I think reading is more of an attractive and obtainable escape for girls than boys. And, in my 25 years of experience with adults as an adult–women are far smarter than men and hence tend to read more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree that girls look inward more than boys, and that continues into adulthood, making them more apt to be readers. But I don’t think women are smarter than men; we each have our strengths and weaknesses.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m just speaking from personal experience. Women seem to be deeper thinkers than men and thus a little wiser. In general, of course, that’s not to be taken as literal. I’m sure it all balances out over the population.😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, in general women do seem to be deeper thinkers. It’s when we get to specifics that we see it can fall either way. I hate to admit it, Glenn, but I’m not a deep thinker.


  4. I have often wondered the same.
    In days gone by (when Mama and Daddy were in the winter-days of their years), I frequently traveled the 159.9 miles between their house and mine to spend a week with them. In the beginning I sat on “Mama’s end” of sofa; I found it intriguing that she watched tv, talked to me AND read…at the same time. Many times Daddy was in his chair reading his Bible. In this time in his life he read it most every night. After closing his bible, Daddy would then insert himself into our conversation and I would move to “Daddy’s end” of sofa so he could hear me.
    I have since come to the conclusion (through my own experience) that as the number of our days grow shorter, we multi-task to get reading time…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Like Mama, I read, watch tv, and talk to husband at the same time. Husband wonders how I do it since he can only take on one thing at a time. And he occasionally tests me to see if I heard what he said, and I always pass. 😁 I have wondered if multitasking is a woman thing, or if I inherited that ability from Mama.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating speculation : vast numbers of people read internet messages or exchange messages by mobile phone.
    I have no proof but millions read newspapers maybe more than read books. One of the modern difficulties is TV and films , and there is a modern conception that watching and listening is far more exciting than plain print.
    The comic is the half-way house and I remember reading them as a boy.
    Reading poetry is a step further and I had a job to muster any desire to do it , the words are polished and measured and stick in the mind while the memory clings to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, there is the mistaken notion (at least mistaken to me) that watching and listening is more exciting than reading. I can be pulled into a well-written book much deeper than if I watched a movie of it. I wasn’t always a lover of poetry either, and I still don’t care for the overly-flowery kind. But when I read Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee and The Raven, I began to develop an appreciation of it.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. My Dad did read, but usually books about plastic – that was his job and we used to tease him when he settled down with a book called polycarbouruthane ( I made that up, I can’t recall the actual stuff! ). Mum always read novels. My husband is dyslexic, but can recall much better than me plays we’ve seen at the theatre. In high school teachers do find it hard to get boys to read fiction and my two were the same, while my daughter has always read. All three were read to at bedtime and the older two were quick to learn to read. To get my younger son to read anything I hit upon a good magazine about understanding science which he enjoyed. Now he likes audio books so he does take in a lot of fiction that way. My son-in-law loves reading and his father is an academic! So will the two grandsons grow up to love reading?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would lay odds that your two grandsons will love reading. They’ll be influenced by both nature AND nurture. On a side note, I think people who read are better informed. Television news is so partisan nowadays that it’s hard to get to the truth of the matter if you don’t research and read.
      Thanks for stopping in and commenting. 🙂


  7. My mother, like your was incredibly busy but her downtime includes books.
    My fathers every second of downtime includes books. We had no TV and with my siblings so much older I began reading at an early age. It is a blessed addiction that has seen me read thousands of books over my lifetime then at some point I began writing as well. I think reading is such a wonderful way to learn. And to writers it is as necessary as breathing. We can only produce from who we are and much of who we are comes from what we take in from the world. If we can breathe great writers words – all the better:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Like you, I have read thousands of books. The love of reading birthed my desire to write, and I would image all writers who are at least competent in the craft are avid readers. I think everyone needs to read well; it’s hard to learn otherwise.
      Thank you for the visit and comment. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. My mom split when I was little, so it was just 3 males in the house for most of my childhood. Yet, all of us read. Although we have different likes. My dad read the newspaper, mysteries, and old western serials. My brother mostly reads magazines and short stories. And I read just about everything…except women’s lit and technical stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe you and your brother read because you saw your dad reading, and emulated him…
      Or, you both inherited your dad’s fondness for reading…
      Who’s to say…????
      As always, thanks for the visit and your thoughts, J.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a hard one. I want my children to be their own people, yet it’s impossible not to see ourselves sin them. Academically, I see my son like myself, intelligent (more him than me!), a thinker, a reader (less often in his case), yet having to work like heck to pull off Bs and the occasional A at school. My daughter has to be dragged into reading yet, like her dad, not a reader as a child, she pulls off academic success more easily. I sometimes think, so much for ‘if you don’t read you won’t succeed’!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know what you mean…my son is very successful in his career though he wasn’t and isn’t a reader. Maybe they’re just taking about reading technical manuals. 😁
      I also made better grades in school than he did—except in algebra. He was a whiz at that, and I could barely handle the basics. I see more of my personality in him than his dad’s, but he has his dad’s ability to look at something and know how it works and how to fix it.
      It IS a hard one.
      I suppose

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I think maybe 50/50!

    Based on my close family I should have had a heart attack or stroke a long time ago. I have all the indicators.

    Yesterday was my 78th birthday but I look in my mid- to upper-50’s! And that wasn’t the case when I was 50 and looked 50 or older.

    It is indeed what you eat, drink, think, do and do-do since your stomach is your second brain.

    Meditation, acupressure and neuroplasticity do indeed work for me!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have good genes, my dad lived to be 94 and probably looked about 64 when he died. And he did most of what he wanted to do until a couple of weeks before he passed, at home, in his own bed, with his children at his side. I hope to follow in his footsteps.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t know other than he had a kind nature and didn’t upset easily. I don’t ever recall seeing him mad.
          His grandfather lived to be over 100. Lost his first wife in his 60s, married a 13 year old at age 70, and raised another family. Don’t be shocked, this was in the mid 1800s.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Heart attack comes from genes. Years back in an experiment, it was shown that subjects without the gene developed the gene during the experiment.

      Now think : if genes get created, we should be able to remove them too. So, nurture for long DOES alter nature.

      Logically, where from Adam and Eve got their genes ? Must be developed by food and habits.

      Oh, btw the gene for heart attack, in that show, was created by inadequate sleep. Take care.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think people underestimate the importance of an adequate amount of sleep. I try to get at least 7 hours, but most of the time, can’t sleep over 6 hours.
        Thank you for your thoughtful comment. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have the heart attack genes for sure. My father died at 59. My older brother at 75. My mother at 84. And my remaining brother is 82. He had quadruple bypass surgery, heart attacks, and stage 1 diabetes and 12 stents.

        I have all the same heart attack factors but have never had a heart attack as all my family had. I am 78 years old and rarely get 6 hours sleep any night. More like 3-5 and sometimes much less. I worked under stress in the USAF and as a Computer Consultant at the Department of State working 5+ days a week and communing over 150 miles per day!

        Again I am 78 but look like I’m 60 so. Have dropped all my meds but two and take them at half the prescribed dose and then every other day. I have also dropped all my doctors who know little or nothing about a healthy lifestyle as the best medicine for sure!

        It’s nurture much more than nature in my case!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We don’t always take after our parents…sometimes it skips back a generation or two. I do believe genes are a factor in some of our health problems, but ofttimes we make things so much worse by our lifestyles. Like you, I take little prescription meds, one in fact. I think some do much more harm than good.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I did not skip a generation or two! At 50+ I walked like an older man, my hair was grayer than it is today and I was stressed for sure! I am what I am today because of my determination to change my life and appearance maturely. Not because of doctors and medications.

            My opinion of doctor’s who only treat the symptoms but rarely the cause:

            Doctors know little about the meds they prescribe

            Even less about The patients they prescribe them too

            And next to nothing about the diseases or conditions they treat their patients for!

            I have proudly been officially fired by two doctors!

            Liked by 2 people

          2. By the way: my arteries are or were severely scared; have an irregular heartbeat; A-fib; and HBP for which I was treated with 3 meds. My prostrate number was also very high! But no more.

            My remaining doctor recently looked at my bloodwork and in astonishment asked, “How did you do this!?”

            I replied, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you!”


            Liked by 2 people

  11. Answer is in the post – “when he was small, I read to him” – so he listened to you, not read often. And now you see him listening to audio books.

    Does he read many books for school curriculum ? That builds the practice, atleast. Oh, enroll him to a library.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Years ago my best friend and I spent a day traveling around the San Juan Islands. They are a row of beautiful islands in Washington State.

    We were in a town called Friday Harbor. it was a cool spring day when we came upon a little book store. I remember walking in but she refused. Books weren’t her thing, she said. It was such a disappointment to me.

    To this day, I doubt she has ever read a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s sad. I feel sorry for non-readers…they miss out on so much. Many years ago, I told my husband, who reads little, that when I’m reading a good book, I visualize it like a movie in my mind. I asked him if reading was like that for him, and he answered no. Maybe people who don’t read just don’t have a good imagination.


  13. Well, now you know another man who reads…me! However, I have little explanation for my love of reading, as I am the only one in my family who does. I was raised as one of six children, 4 boys and 2 girls, and only three are with us today. Neither of my parents or siblings were ever readers other than what they had to read in school. My dad encouraged my reading even though he didn’t read at all. Not because he didn’t have the desire, but he was embarrassed because he quit school at 13 to get a job and help feed his family, thus he was functionally illiterate. Plus he worked almost insane hours, at times a month or more of 12 hours on and 12 hours off! I began reading as an escape, starting with comic books and sci-fi. Love Jules Verne novels for example, then Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, etc. as a pre-teen. Then at 12 I discovered “The Lord of the Rings” series and literally read the covers off of them! I have also been an avid Bible reader and student since I was saved at the age of 19 while in the Army. Most of my personal library now contains books of philosophy, theology, and biblical studies with a small amount of fiction, though I would rather read good fiction most any day! I still consider Tolkein and C.S. Lewis as the best. My modern favorites include Frank Peretti and especially Ted Dekker, both Christian novelists whom I wish everyone would read.


    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, D.T. I always enjoy learning how other readers got started. I think I began reading as an escape also…I grew up on a farm/ranch quite a few miles from the nearest town, and we didn’t have much money to spare. Once I learned to read, I read everything I could get my hands on. A lot were 2nd hand books, mostly westerns, my mother purchased from a used book store. I also read from the school library, and checked out books from the library in town that were of the science fiction and fantasy genres for the most part. I enjoy books in about all genres, except romance.


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