Monday Musings | Do “Only Children” and Older Siblings Read More?

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Do they?

This is a question that I’ve had on my mind for quite a while. I was talking to a friend one day when she remarked that she was the reader in her family whereas her younger siblings hardly ever read. This lead me to wonder whether the order in which you were born affects the way you read, as I am also the oldest one in my family and my younger sister isn’t much of a reader. Of course, I know that these observations could be mere coincidences (I will admit that one of my friends is a middle child and also an avid reader) but it does make me wonder how many of you are only children and how many of you are the younger sibling in your family?

When I was a kid I was super extroverted and would not shut up. I always wanted to play with other kids and I remember wanting a younger sibling sooo badly so I would have someone to play with. I think that’s one of the reasons I read so much as a child (and therefore love reading so much now): because I didn’t have someone to play with ALL THE TIME, I found friends in the books I read, and found that I really enjoyed their company. I still feel so much joy when I’m cracking open a new book, knowing that a new set of characters are waiting for me in the pages.

Anyway, my experience made me think about the correlation between being an only child/eldest child and reading. Maybe my younger sister doesn’t read as much because she always had me to play with?

Obviously these are not really scientific observations and I know that there are exceptions to this observation but I do wonder if there’s a real correlation. So, probably more than ever, I would love to hear what you think! Are you an only child? Or do you have siblings? Are you a younger sibling or the oldest in your family? Do you love reading? Do your younger siblings? Do you think my theory is totally crazy?

42 thoughts on “Monday Musings | Do “Only Children” and Older Siblings Read More?

  1. Nish says:

    You may have a point, but I think it could be personal tastes too. I am the elder and have been the bookworm, but my brother never took to reading (even though ours was a fully literary household), and I remember my parents making a lot of attempts to get him to read.

    I make the same effort with my first-born daughter and she reads but not with the same interest as she does other things such as art and dance. However, my son who I thought was too young to show any real interests (he’s only 2.6) demands that I read to him all the time. Of course, it’s way too early to really tell but he seems to be very book-oriented.

    • kmn04books says:

      That’s awesome that your son is showing interest in reading at such a young age! I definitely think personal taste plays into it as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Charleen says:

    I was the oldest in my house, and definitely the reader of the family. Part of that might be the age gap, not just with my brother (five years younger) but with my cousins (most of whom are either several years older or younger than me). So at family parties, I wasn’t much interested in playing with either the younger kids or the older kids… so I’d just sit by myself and read (unless forced to do otherwise).

    Of course, that doesn’t necessarily explain why I read so much at home, where it was just the two of us, and plenty of neighborhood kids of all ages.

    • kmn04books says:

      I definitely wonder if age gaps play a huge part in whether siblings become readers or not. Hmm, maybe you read at home because you were already in the habit of reading? (These comments are so fascinating to read. Thanks for sharing!)

  3. Krissy says:

    I’m the youngest of three, but also the only girl. My brothers read sporadically, but nothing compared to me. I will say, though, that there is a 10 and 7 year age difference between my brother’s and I, and I spent a lot of time on my own (my mom was a single parent the majority of my growing up).
    I don’t think your theory is crazy, but my stats/psychology professors in university have it ingrained in my brain that correlation does not equal causation. I graduated years ago, and I still remember that!

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha I did think about that when I was typing up the blog (“correlation does not equal causation”). You’re right, of course. There are so many factors that influence whether people become readers or not; it’s hard to pinpoint one thing!

  4. The Paperback Princess says:

    Oh boy do I have some things to say about this!

    I am the oldest in my family and I read a lot. But I don’t think that I necessarily read the most. All of my siblings (all 5 of them) are readers. It hasn’t always been thus. My youngest sister has only recently come an avid reader, taking regular trips to the library. Before that she would fight reading. I think it was less about not liking to read and more about not wanting to do everything that her older brothers and sisters did, about carving out her own identity. When she stopped fighting, she found things that she liked to read, things that the rest of us didn’t and that became something of her own. Similarly my other 2 sisters fought me for forever on the book recommendations I would make for them. I think it was the same thing.

    I’m not sure about my brothers – both of them fought reading but mostly in the frame of school. Neither of them like(d) school and connected school with reading so they didn’t do much of it. But at some point they stopped fighting and now they both read loads. My one brother is never without at least one title on the go, always loading up his e-reader with more books.

    I have no idea about only children – you might be onto something with the playmates theory. But in families with loads of kids, it seems that most of them are readers. Maybe it’s a way to escape the real family dynamics, or convince yourself that it’s not so bad?

    • kmn04books says:

      That’s really interesting and insightful! I wonder if my younger sister resisted reading because she wanted her own “thing” too. I totally understand the school reading resentment too – when you’re not into a certain book and someone “forces” you to read it, it can be really frustrating, especially if reading isn’t considered “cool.” Thanks for your comment, it’s given me a lot to think about!

  5. Naomi says:

    I also have 5 siblings, and I’m #2. The oldest in our family probably reads the least and I probably read the most. In my family it seems to be more of an interest thing. Some of us like to read, but some of us would rather do other things. It is a good question, though. Have you googled it?

    • kmn04books says:

      Hehe I actually didn’t even think of googling it (silly me). I definitely think interest plays a part. I was never an athletic person so I guess that’s how I fell into reading!

  6. cricketmuse says:

    As an avid reader, I hoped to pass that love of books to my children. I don’t recall them reading that much, but they grew up appreciating books. As adults they prefer non-fiction books to novels. Somehow I think I did something wrong. I read to them as little kinder, introduced and suggested novels when they were teens, and they usually saw me with a book in hand. Well, at least they appreciate the value of books.

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha I’m the same way! I don’t have kids but I’m definitely the annoying (or best, depending on what your stance is) aunt who insists on buying kids books for christmas/holidays because I want them to read more! I don’t think you did anything wrong though – sometimes it just comes down to personality/interests, I guess! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  7. Amy Sachs says:

    This is a really interesting thought…I’m the oldest of three and my sister rarely reads and my brother not at all. I think it’s also partially because they have other athletic interests and I’m not athletic in the least!

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha you might be onto something there! Even though I was loud and obnoxious as a kid I was NEVER athletic whereas my sister is more quiet than me and is a track and field star!

  8. Milliebot says:

    I’m 11 years older than the next oldest sibling and the biggest reader by far. However my reading really picked up in high school, at which point I was no longer an only child. One of my sisters reads some, the next in line hardly ever. My 6 year-old brother loves books, but who knows how long that will last?

    • kmn04books says:

      That’s really interesting. I do wonder whether age gaps play a part in whether older/younger siblings read or not. I guess my theory is that if you constantly have someone to play with then you’re less inclined to take time to sit down and read alone. I hope your 6 year-old brother keeps reading!

  9. Lisa says:

    I’m an only child. Growing up there were only a couple of neighborhood kids my age & I was the only grandchild on both sides for almost 7 years. My parents didn’t allow me to watch tv much & we spent almost all summer months tent camping so I read EVERYWHERE. In trees, in the car, next to rivers. I would also read walking to school (dangerous probably but I had only 2 streets to cross).

    Two of my cousins love to read but aren’t given much time to do so because their parents aren’t readers. They’ve been known to hide books in their rooms.

    I feel lucky that my dad would “read” to me while my mom was pregnant & we would read aloud in the car on trips. Unlike my cousins, I was never told I couldn’t read or not to buy books by my parents.

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha I was (and still am) a huuuge read-walker! Reading while camping sounds so amazing. Those must be great memories for you. I think it’s adorable that your cousins love books enough to hide them in their rooms! I hope that never changes 🙂 My mom liked that I read (I think) but I definitely was told a few times that I couldn’t buy more books. Now that I’m in charge of my own finances… I get it. Hahaha

  10. La La in the LiBrArY says:

    Both my younger sister and I read a lot, so does my mother. I don’t think it matters because I have seen it in reverse, too, where the youngest reads the most. Infact, if you count my sister’s ever present audio books she intakes more books than I do.

    • kmn04books says:

      That’s very fair. I was definitely ready to be proven wrong 😉 I’ve recently re-discovered audiobooks and I’m loving it! They’re definitely a great way to “read.”

  11. Words for Worms says:

    I’m the younger sibling, my sister is 3 years older. She struggled with reading as a kid so it was never her go-to form of entertainment. I’ve not known her to read anything as an adult that doesn’t involve scandalous naked time, which is part of the reason I’ll defend 50 Shades of Grey despite its inherent ridiculousness. It got my sister to read! But yeah. Youngest in the family. Biggest reader. I’ve never been “normal” so, take it for what it’s worth.

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha definitely. I am also of the camp that believes anything that makes people read is a great thing! (Except when the text is pushing for genocide or other crazy things but… I’m sure that’s not a thing.) I can definitely see how struggling to read as a kid would affect your enjoyment of reading later in life!

  12. Annabel Smith says:

    I’m the middle child and am definitely the biggest reader by far among my siblings. I think with anything to do with birth order, personality is also a big factor. I think nature as well as nurture has an impact on people’s desire to read. My brothers and I were exposed to all the same things as kids – being read to, seeing mum and dad read, being taken to libraries etc and I’m the only one who really went crazy for reading so I can’t help thinking that was innate.

  13. Alice says:

    An interesting thought.

    My younger sister used to be the reader when we were young. We all read books to degrees, but she was bookie. Now I’d say I was the reader, but only because she finds it hard to read a book quickly, and I devour the books I read rather quickly. We’re both introverts. My very youngest sister, also introverted, doesn’t read much – but she is at Uni.

    • kmn04books says:

      Ah, yes. If I hadn’t been an English major at university I doubt I would have read much. It’s pretty demanding work! The introvert/extrovert angle is really interesting to think about too… I would consider myself an extrovert whereas my younger sister is more quiet than me but I’m the reader out of the two of us. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. exploringallgenres says:

    I’m the youngest child, with one older sister, and I definitely was and still am the reader of the family. My sister would only read when forced to i.e. for school, but I would read every moment of the day whenever I could and it didn’t matter what I would read, whether it was the box of cereal in the morning as I ate or a book late at night, I just needed to read all the time. My son is an only child and he reads a lot, he’s seven and already has a bookshelf that is overflowing with books, most of which he has read multiple times.

  15. Stormy says:

    I’m the youngest of two. . . but my sister is also 16 years older than me. She moved out when I was four, so I in many ways feel like my childhood was that of an only child, and I’m the only reader in my family. My parents aren’t really readers at all, and my sister will pick up a book here and there but is perfectly fine not reading. I’ve always been the reader in my family.

  16. Ri says:

    I’m the oldest child between me and my brother and though he does read, he doesn’t have that hunger for books like I do. He’s very picky and particular with what he reads, while I have many things that interest me. My parents enjoy the occasional book. My dad takes FOREVER to finish a book and my mum mainly reads Chinese romance novels. So there’s that.

    • kmn04books says:

      Haha aw! I wish I read more chinese books but I read so slowly trying to piece all the words together that I end up getting too frustrated and give up 😛 Thanks for sharing!

  17. Nikki says:

    This is such an interesting topic!! I’ve loved reading all the comments here too. I’m the older sibling in my family (just have one two-years-younger sister). We both love reading! I definitely read more than she does, but that might also be because she’s going to college full-time *and* working full-time, so she doesn’t have that much time to read at the moment. She’s actually the one who got me back into reading a few years ago, after I went through a period of WATCH ALL THE TV SHOWS!!! lol. So I figure I should give her a pass, and say we’re both avid readers. 😉

    • kmn04books says:

      Oh wow! Going to college full time and working full time would DEFINITELY hinder my ability to read much! (Also, that’s really impressive that she can do that!) I love that she was the one that got you back into reading. That’s what sisters are for, right? 😉

  18. LR says:

    What a great post. I actually hadn’t really thought about it before, but I am the older child and I read WAY more than my brother. We’re not far apart in age, but I think that we’re two really different people. He’s all logistics (math, science) and I’m a lover of the arts. So who knows if I fell in love with reading in an attempt to occupy myself until he was able to play or like you, I love opening a new book and meeting a whole new set of friends.

    • kmn04books says:

      That’s pretty true in my case too! My sister is into the sciences whereas I have always been the lit nerd/reader. So interesting! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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