The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Nov 3, 2011

Reading in Italy

A recent paper (PDF!) by Mancini, Monfardini and Pasqua reveals that reading among Italian children is prompted directly by the reading done by parents. That is to say, if a parent reads in the presence of the child, the child is likelier to read than one whose parent doesn't read.

The researchers found as well that reading by mothers is more important than reading by fathers. There is both a short-term and a long-term effect. When a child sees a parent reading, he or she is more inclined to do the same (short-term effect). In households where parents read, children appear to be more inclined to read as well, even when the parents are not at that particular moment reading. Curiously, however, children tend to read for longer periods than their parents. In fact, the average amount of time spent by the Italian parents under survey was quite small - 12 minutes for mothers and 10 for fathers (with a deviation of 27 minutes for mothers and 24 for fathers). Even more curiously, if a parent reads in the presence of a child, a younger child is less likely to read than an older child.

When I was growing up, my parents used to read in my presence, my mother more than my father. I don't think they read for hours on end. I did, and so did my sister. In this, we are bang in the centre of representation in the Italian study. I can't say, however, that my sister (younger) read any less than I did. So in that, we are a bit different from the Italians. Of course, you can't infer anything about Indians' reading habits from just my example. For all I know, the same effect of parental behaviour on offsprings' reading habits applies anywhere in the world.

Although I still read quite a bit, I rarely do so at home. I'm not sure this has much of a deleterious effect on the boy's reading. After all, the Italians have established that the mother has more power to influence the kid than the father. Huzzah. If the boy ends up a lumpen element, it won't be entirely my fault.

But being unable to read at home is a source of some frustration for me. Reading while commuting is not quite as satisfying as reading while lying on the sofa with a pack of peanuts to munch on. At home, however, as soon as I try to read, I'm interrupted by the boy. He might want to read (which he does loudly), or he might want to go to the park, or he might want a drink of water, or he might want me to admire his latest Lego creation. Distractions galore.

Still, it's heartening that the boy does enjoy reading. How long that will last is anybody's guess. Will he become a lifelong slacker on the sofa with peanuts and a book? Or will he be a lifelong slacker on the sofa with beer and TV? The possibilities for slackerdom are endless.


Anonymous said...

Hm. I actually don't remember seeing my parents read much, although I'm sure they did as our house was filled with books. Or maybe it was so normal that it didn't even register...

Feanor said...

I'm amazed you managed to read this - the formatting is all shot! But yeah, we had lots of books at home as well, so I guess the reading habit was more of an osmosis than anything intentional...

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